My first week on campus was a dream. Beyond the ability to share a living space with like-minded people of similar age to me, I had the opportunity to get to know one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. However, for all the beauty the University of Richmond has to offer, the amount of goose poop often turns the brick-lined sidewalks into minefields. The feces, while annoying, serves as a reminder — a history if you will — that geese call this campus home too. While humans often do so in a more sterile way, Penelope L. Corfield reminds us in All people are living histories – which is why History matters that we too leave our marks on history. In order to leave a better mark than our geese neighbors, Corfield encourages us to study history. In the process, we connect ourselves to the shared story of humanity by gaining an understanding and appreciation of the factors that shape our society which prevents us from living destructive lives. Thus, the study of history helps us add to humanity in a helpful, rather than harmful, way.
Like history, leaders have a shrewd role in helping us live connected, positive lives. In Bernard M. Bass’s Concepts of Leadership, he asserts that leaders have “rights and privileges, duties and obligations.” Certainly, among a leader’s obligations is an understanding of how history leaves a scar — for better or for worse — on our institutions, jobs, and personal lives. Thus, excellent leadership requires an astute understanding of and appreciation for the humanities. This does not mean that all leaders exhibit said qualities. As Corfield notes, Henry Ford — who undoubtedly was a leader in the automobile industry — claimed to find history “bunk”, or useless. However, later in his life, Ford collected antique automobiles, suggesting that he did, after all, understand the impact history had on his industry and, furthermore, his role in shaping that history. That understanding, whether or not it is explicit, ties leadership and the humanities together in an inseparable bond.