As you may or may not know, road cycling is a favorite addiction, er … I mean, hobby of mine. In my book Taking the Lead: What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership, I used 30 different cycling experiences to illustrate key leadership principles.

One principle was illustrated by a time I was forced to walk backward on my bike. It was awkward, ineffective and (ultimately) painful. Bicycles are amazing machines to move you forward. Backing up, however, is another story.

Living with a forward-facing attitude is an absolute must for leaders. It’s also a deeply personal conviction. So much so that I had it painted on my bike in Latin—Semper Incito: Always Forward. Perhaps more than any other, this one principle captures everything I discuss about leadership.

Living with a forward-facing attitude is an absolute must for leaders.

And Your Point Is…?

I’ve never seen an effective, accomplished leader who navigated in reverse.

Not one.

So What?

Many parts of the human experience compel us to move backward. Fear, guilt, grudges, regret, lack of reconciliation with others (or ourselves) … there are so many reasons to look for ways to circle the wagons—if not retreat altogether.

They affect us at almost every level: socially, emotionally, practically, spiritually, organizationally and more. Like gravity, they relentlessly pull us toward focusing on reasons to fail, to give up, to entrench, to blame and find fault, to avoid risk and to wrap ourselves in blankets of safety. This rearward tendency is why we need leaders to skillfully and artfully help us dream, hope, pick ourselves up when we stumble and animate success from failure.

You can’t lead others (not to mention yourself) forward if you are always trying to overcome a mistake, make up for a bad decision, or over-correct something from the past. It takes diligence to own it, learn from it, change and then move positively onward.

And oh, by the way: If you don’t get this in your own leadership, you won’t be able to develop it in others.

I’ve never seen an effective, accomplished leader who navigated in reverse.

The Big Picture

We need leaders with their feet planted tangibly in the here and now but with hearts and imaginations playing downstream—in the potential and uncertainty of the horizon. It’s one of the most elusive of leadership qualities, and it does not come easily or conveniently. It’s forged, cultivated.

If you don’t get this in your own leadership, you won’t be able to develop it in others.

Your Next Step

What is keeping you looking back over your shoulder or revisiting the past, when you could be thinking about what’s in front of you?

Want More Insight?

Order your copy of Taking the Lead to get 29 other leadership principles.

Taking the Lead - What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership

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