A Leadership Moment – Moving Ahead By Glancing Behind

An area that truly separates leaders is their ability to learn from mistakes made and adjust along the way.  Changing course or admitting that things could have been executed differently requires a level of courage, humility and strength that is seldom found today.  Leadership is about charting the course, setting direction and providing clarity along the way.  As with any journey, sometimes you have to change lanes, take detours, and sometimes the GPS has to recalculate.  A successful journey requires reflection.  In the leadership challenge, Kouzes and Posner state, “We make sense of our world retrospectively, and all understanding originates in reflection and looking backward… We construct the future by some extrapolation, in which the past is prologue, and the approach to the future is backward-looking.”  A statement that I have always enjoyed is “You won’t get very far in life by looking through the rearview mirror.”  When we spend too much time looking behind, we derail our progress and minimize our future.  Leaders focus on what’s in front, however we make sense of what’s in front by reflection and looking backward.  Therefore, the future makes sense as the result of our past experiences. 

From a leadership perspective, one cannot live in the past; however time must be spent glancing back long enough to make adjustments in the course that is being traveled.  We all have woulda, shoulda, and coulda moments in life.  We all have vast experiences, some more than others.   Unfortunately, sometimes experience travels alone.  Experience (years of service) is not a true reflection of what a person has gained during their time on the job, but evaluated experience can be translated into something actionable to help shape our future course.  

We are shaped by our past, but our past is not our future.  Adopting that extremely dangerous perspective would be like trying to drive to the future while looking only in the rearview mirror.  With that point of view, we’d drive ourselves off a cliff.  Take for example Lot from the Old Testament, when his wife looked back on Sodom and Gomorrah, she turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26)!  They were told to leave and not look back!  God has not called us to live a life of regrets, but a life of promise and purpose.  We are bought by the blood of Jesus Christ and the old man is washed away.  We need not focus on the things that are behind us, because the blessings of God are in front us and we need to be looking ahead in order to not miss what He has in store for us.   

Reflection is needed to clarify and compare our perspective of what the current reality is. We compare the future to the present and determine what could be different.  That comparison is needed, we just can’t stay there.  “When we gaze first into our past, we elongate our future.  We also enrich our future and give it detail as we recall the richness of our past experiences.”  The Leadership Challenge, pg 119.  Leaders navigate for their people.  Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.  Vision and direction come from a leader’s passion for something to change for the better.  In the end, we move ahead by glancing behind and reflecting on the lessons learned.  Work hard, do great things and have fun!  Jake  


Jake Warrington is the owner of J.Warrington Consulting. Through J.Warrington Consulting, Jake exercises his passion for developing individuals that add-value to their organization. J.Warrington Consulting’s Mission is to add value by continually growing ourselves, in an effort to help organizations meet their professional leadership development needs. 

J.Warrington Consulting was created out of a passion to add value to people through writing, training, mentoring and coaching in the areas leadership and organizational change. Everything rises and falls on leadership and J.Warrington Consulting operates on the premise that leadership development is a journey which starts with the understanding that leadership is based on who you are and then by what you do. If you would like additional information on how J.Warrington Consulting may add value to your business or church, please contact me at j.w_consulting@yahoo.com. 



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