Leadership Windshield Leadership vs. Rear-View Mirror Management Written by: Paul LaRue
Car rear view mirror representing rear view management rather than windshield leadership

Great leaders who build up their people and empower them to achieve greatness differentiate themselves from those managers who are not effective in those areas.

Have you every wondered why certain leaders generate great performance and others seem to flounder or fail in their leadership influence?

It all comes down to opposite leadership styles:

Windshield Leadership vs. Rear-View Mirror Management

People who are rear-view managers tend to be reactionary. They would rather jump on an issue after it has occurred. Usually those issues are ones in which an error or poor performance took place, in which case the manager reprimands, then takes steps to correct the individual through steps such as remedial training or formal discipline.

Rear-view management is a reactionary style, in which the manager waits until circumstances occur to address them. This type of style looks at patchwork training to cover the holes found along the way. It also creates a fear culture as people tend to look over their shoulder at what they’ve done, awaiting the corrective instruction from their boss, or at the least worrying about if they made a mistake in their performance.

Windshield leadership is quite the opposite mindset. A windshield leader is always looking ahead and doing whatever it takes to avoid the hazards and potholes up ahead, even if they cannot see any yet.

Windshield leaders get ahead of any poor performance by setting clear expectations, providing continual reminders of the goal and vision, and training incessantly to ensure their people are on top of their game and perform at a high level at all times.

By being proactive, this style of leadership coaches people and ensures they too can foresee the hazards ahead. Windshield leaders are fully connected with their personnel and work with them to succeed as a team through promoting values, vision, and execution of their skills. And when a mistake is made, it is addressed with a focus on preventing it in the future. Windshield leadership takes any corrective action and frames it in the overall growth and learning trajectory of the individual and organization; “We learn from our mistakes so we can succeed better,” rather than “You messed up, here are the consequences.”

When a leader works hard to train his or her people to get ahead of situations and prevent errors or poor execution, that leader becomes more effective than the one who would rather wait and pounce on an issue in arrears.

To think of it another way – cars have a large windshield and a small rear-view mirror. While drivers need to check behind them occasionally, they need to focus on the road ahead to ensure they can successfully get where they are going. Great leaders know the wisdom of focusing on the present and future and spending very little time on the recent past.

Get ahead of challenges before they occur. Train, ready, and elevate your people to perform and prepare for the next goal. Set your sights ahead and drive your organization forward.

More From Paul LaRue

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The Ringleader Approach to Leading Teams

5 Ways to be a Buffer in a Negative Culture

Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership, strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.

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