Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Windshield or Rear Mirror: Which is more Important to Leaders?

Fundamental to all leadership is vision!

Every leader is unique,and they may also have different leadership style: the pivotal leaders are pathfinder to look forward, and discover the new trail to let others follow through; the seasoned leaders have plenty of experience, look back with rich and invaluable leadership lessons to learn from. Forward looking or with an eye on the history and culture - both could be essential.What kind of leader do you prefer? Which leadership style do you have?

Fundamental to all leadership is vision. Vision, is the ability to see beyond what is to what could be. It is the synthetic view of ‘looking forward” and “looking behind”; “looking beyond”, and “looking around”; leaders understand that the first element of vision is a realistic, meaningful understanding of what is. This demands both situational awareness for current circumstance as well as certain knowledge of history to evaluate how we get where we are and what lessons have been learned along the way. With that cognizance, leadership means to looking forward, to first envision the future that is improved or "better" in certain way from the present, then to communicating that vision to others, developing team level commitment to achieving the vision, engaging strategically and tactically in the elements needed to make the vision possible, these are all supporting components of effective leadership. 

Forward thinking leaders always look and move forward. They say your windshield is larger than your rear view mirror for a reason. When we jump into the digital future of VUCA –Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, looking forward needs AAA –attitude, aptitude and altitude. Forward thinking leaders always look and move forward. Like the car analogy, one should use the forward view to state where we are going and while using the rear view perspective as a risk analysis tool. Further, it's a bird's eye view that is needed. You can't just look behind you, because you can't affect the past even if you can learn from it. You can't look ahead only, as you'll repeat past mistakes. The great leaders stand up as high as they can and look in every direction they could to view the landscape, seeing the world as it is, where it's moving, but also where it could be, then they sit down and drive with purpose

Historical lessons are important as well -“those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." For every individual, back view mirror is very important to learn from errors / mistakes / short comings or whatever we can call. A leader must have a solid grasp on what has been tried before and analyze why those initiatives didn't succeed. Have the right staffs been chosen for the task? Were they given proper resources? Was there organizational buy-in from senior management as well as affected departments? Was it the best solution to reach the goal? The rear mirror is the tool to make sure we understand where we are, any immediate gaps or dangers that make the forward view unrealistic. We must see where we are going. We need to see what is behind us, but not at the cost of losing our visibility forward. The past is in view only to allow us to recognize possible conflicts that could approach from where we have been. By focusing forward we are able to more accurately judge the coming curves and obstacles in our path. Be careful, there are still some blind spots on the way. After that analysis, the leader can assess the current environment, be forward thinking and develop sound strategies to achieve positive outcomes.

Lesson - Keep your focus in the direction of your destination and only glance at the past necessarily to stay aware of where you have been. Too often, looking at the past inhibits forward progress. If you focus too long, too much on the past, you will not be prepared to react when potential obstacles enter you path ahead. Although they are both needed, in life one must look back to recognize life transitions whether positive or negative. Positive transition would be the windshield to our future. Negative is the rearview of our past. Everyday is a new day and it is time for the team at hand to tackle the future and move toward it confidently.


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