One of the distinguishing characteristics of leaders is their orientation toward the future. The rationale behind leaders’ daily actions and decisions is preparation for the future. The development of a clear mission as well as a compelling vision, is all about guiding the organization into the future. Followers want to know how leaders will help them get from today to a better tomorrow with the least pain and the most gain. They expect leaders to develop working strategies for accomplishing that vision and remaining true to the mission. Nevertheless, leaders can benefit from reflecting on the past, honoring it, and applying lessons on the journey into the future.
This weekend, I reviewed the contents of some archived file folders to purge things out of my storage space. A lot of it was uninteresting financial documents: invoices, receipts, and plane ticket stubs (do you remember printed tickets?). However, I also found client folders. These were far more interesting and caused me to stop and reflect on the past just a bit. Thumbing through those files recalled many people and events from my past.
Looking through the notes in my files, I was reminded of good relationships with many clients. I’ve truly enjoyed working with these people. I viewed our activities as a partnership in pursuit of making real and significant changes, either personally or for their organization, or both. I like to think I added value to their lives, and I know they added value to my life. In many cases, these “clients” have become life-long friends.
One of the lessons I learned from this reflection is that there are great rewards for honoring others and the Lord by helping people leverage their God-given talents. When people work together to solve problems by using those talents, the results are better and there is great joy in the work.
On the other hand, there were some not-so-good relationships. There was the truly bizarre (one guy was rumored to have a mafia connection), and there was occasional conflict. I’m saddened by the conflict that occurred, but these relationships, too, yielded lessons.
First, I need to stick to what honors the Lord. When I do that, my ego and natural selfishness are less likely to become sources of conflict. Second, I need to trust my gut. There have been a few relationships that just didn’t feel right from the start and I should have ended the relationship earlier rather than later. Third, I can’t take myself too seriously. When I do, I become self-conscious and lose focus on the Lord and others’ needs.
Looking Forward Again
While I’m definitely a future-focused leader, I see the value in looking back. Those files helped me see what God has done in my life, recall the amazing people I’ve worked with, and develop confidence in the future holds. My look back produced genuine gratitude for the journey I’ve been on.
In the end, 95% of those files ended up in the recycling bin or the shredder. I need to make room for more lessons to look back on in the future!
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.
Photo by author.