Successful Foresight Requires Strategic Hindsight

Successful Foresight Requires Strategic Hindsight

“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hyperion (1839)

The old saying “Hindsight is twenty-twenty” no doubt sends shivers down some of our  spines.  After enduring the unprecedented events of the 2020 global pandemic, many of us  would like to forget that ill-fated year and move swiftly into the future.  This  reaction, however, would be a serious mistake. Despite being associated with unfavorable digits, the adage expresses a transcendent truth that leaders can use to their advantage as they strategically plan for the future. After all, hindsight can positively impact outcomes.

LEADon® has repeatedly underscored  the importance of  retrospection for exceptional leadership.  Since several LEADon® team members have expertise in psychology and psychiatry, we support the philosophy that one must learn from the past in order to effectively address the present and efficiently move into the future.  As Søren Kierkegaard so aptly summarized: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

While there are countless recommendations for gaining perspective in order to improve performance, LEADon® recommends that you focus on answering these simple, yet straightforward questions:

  1. Looking back on 2020, what personal/professional decisions would you change in order to lead better in 2021?
  2. What successes did you/others have in 2020 that you can build on as you plan for 2021 and beyond?
  3. What are you most thankful for personally and professionally? How can you continue to emphasize an attitude of gratitude no matter what the future holds?

In reality, this strategic hindsight approach should be utilized throughout our personal and professional life journey.  At LEADon®, we often refer to this as the ‘rearview mirror method’ where you occasionally glance backward while keeping your main focus on forward momentum.  By applying this approach to your personal and professional life, you can use past experiences to improve current and future performance outcomes.  But remember, you should never get stuck in the past because, much like driving a vehicle, trouble can occur when hindsight predominates foresight.

In addition to this simple retrospective exercise, you may wish to add a S.W.O.T.

Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to optimize the reflective process. At LEADon®, we offer several online courses that would be helpful in your efforts too, for example, LEADing with the Power of Perspective and Rhetoric® and LEADing by Fastracking Transformation® (see  In addition, we highly recommend you enlist the assistance of a mentor or leadership coach as you analyze and process past lessons and attempt to apply them to your current and future leadership plans (see our blog, “Developing Others:  Mentoring and EQ” at

Over two decades ago, Malcom Gladwell investigated the topic of epidemics in his book The Tipping Point and shared this pivotal insight:  “ little changes can somehow have big effects” (2000, p. 10).  That principle couldn’t be more poignant for anyone who lived through the dramatic experiences of 2020.  Microscopic organisms temporarily transformed our lives.  Likewise, the small, yet significant changes we make today can profoundly impact all our tomorrows.  As Longfellow reminds us, the past need not be mourned—instead may it be utilized to transform us into better individuals and bolder leaders, especially as we strategize for a more successful, satisfying future.

If LEADon® can assist you and your team with any of your leadership needs, please contact us at 858.592.0700 or visit us at We wish you health and happiness in the days ahead, and may the new year be a productive and prosperous one.