A Rudder, Not An Anchor

August 21, 2011

“May the past be a rudder, not an anchor.”

That’s what Joe Jordan said to Don Lough, Jr. as Don became the new Executive Director of Word of Life last Friday night.

It was an apt metaphor.

Leaders in every organization struggle to find the right balance between holding on to the past while moving into the future.

Not long ago I heard one man say that his church was the same as it was 40 years ago. That’s fine if next year is 1972, but if next year is 2012, I think they’re in a bit of trouble.

Times change, fads come and go, and what worked in the 1940s may not work so well in reaching today’s young people. But the wise leader must resist the temptation to throw out the past and to live as if today’s generation is the only one that matters. 

Tradition, Chesterton said, is the “democracy of the dead.” It gives a vote to those who have gone before. That doesn’t mean their vote must be decisive on every issue, but it does mean that you think about the history that has brought you to this point.

If you ignore the past, you may be tossed by the waves and end up going somewhere you never intended. If you live in the past, you may never get out of the harbor.

Joe was right and wise in what he said to Don Lough. His words apply to leaders everywhere. Look to the past, but don’t live there. Let it be a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to hold you back.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?