Leadership Must Look in the Past to See the Future

September 14, 2012

Leadership Vision Leadership is about Envision the Future

In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the importance of envisioning a future, and in The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner suggest that having an envisioned future is one of the top five leadership practices. To lead effectively, leaders need to have a clear vision of where to go–not just for themselves, but for those they lead. So how should leaders go about envisioning the future?

Janus Precedence Effect will Improve Your Leadership

In their book on leadership, Kouzes and Posner reference a study done by the University of Southern California’s Omar El Sawy. Sawy divided a group of CEOs into two. He had one group focus on remembering past events and one group concentrate on envisioning future events, before turning their attention toward the future. Here’s what Sawy found, in the words of Kouzes and Posner:

“Interestingly, those CEOs who described their past events before casting their eye into the future were able to look farther into the future than the CEOs who listed the future events first. El Sawy’s conclusion was that the practice of looking back into the past not only helps us learn from mistakes or consider milestones, but also helps us look further into the future. He characterized the phenomenon as the ‘Janus Precedence Effect’ because in Roman mythology, the character of Janus had two heads facing in opposite directions to symbolize endings and beginnings.”

If you want to see far into the future, look first into the past. What problems arose and why? How might you take what you’ve learned from the past and apply it now to the future?



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