Leaders need to learn from the past, but if a single issue keeps coming up again and again, it will prevent you from leading for the future of your organization.
During a recent leadership development program, I watched three senior public-sector leaders have a heated discussion. I could tell they were talking about a pretty serious issue, so I figured I’d let them get into it.
But after a while, something was bugging me about the conversation. I called a time-out and said, “I’ve been following along pretty well, but now I’m getting confused. When did this issue happen?”
In unison, they said, “Ten years ago.”
And here I thought they were talking about a real issue that they needed to work out.
“We’ve spent the last twenty-five minutes talking about this,” I said. “Can anyone tell me how this is relevant to your leadership roles today?”
Silence. I continued, “I don’t get how you can still be this emotionally invested in something that happened so long ago. It’s clear you’ve all lost perspective as leaders.”
Unfortunately, I’ve been delivering that speech a lot recently. It’s all too easy for people in an organization to get into the habit of rehashing old issues. But holding on doesn’t help. It acts as an anchor holding you back. You’ve got to let it go.
Sure, leaders need to learn from the past, but if a single issue keeps coming up again and again, it will prevent you from leading for the future of your organization. If you’re repeatedly discussing the same past events, you’ve lost perspective.
How often does this happen in your organization? How often do you as a leader hold on to experiences that really aren’t relevant any more? If you recognize yourself in the story I just told, it’s time to let go and lead the future!