The Elephant in the Mirror
Both observation and personal experience are powerful instructional tools, but the key is to be alert, have a teachable attitude, and open to the instruction. For me, some of the most powerful and memorable lessons have been born out of specific situations and personal relationships. Some of those situations and circumstances were characterized by success and celebration while others were delivered through the school of adversity in the university of hard knocks. The personal relationships that have had the greatest impact, both personally and professionally, are those that taught me to graciously treasure the moment or courageously weather the storm, depending on the circumstances that confronted me in this often-unpredictable journey called life. These influencers were both objective and honest in their assessment and feedback and they did not always tell me what I wanted to hear. However, as I look back in retrospect, they did tell me what I needed to hear, and their influence and example have served as a powerful and lasting influence in my personal and professional journey.
Based on the premise that experience is an extremely valuable and effective teacher, I invite your attention to the graphic illustration provided above. We are probably all familiar with the well-known proverb that elephants never forget, and I have chosen the image of the elephant with specific purpose in mind. Beyond the proverbial context, consider that cognitive scientists tell us that the elephant has excellent long-term memory and can remember experiences for long periods of time. They also tell us that the elephant is the only animal known to recognize their own reflection in a mirror.
In the context of leadership development, the elephant in the rear-view mirror symbolizes the value of long-term memory and the importance of learning from our past experiences. I would also contend that the elephant in the rear-view mirror symbolizes the critical importance of self-reflection and the recognition of our own strengths and weaknesses. If you currently serve in a leadership position, or aspire to do so, I encourage you to take a reflective look in the rear-view mirror of your professional journey. As you do, keep in mind that the lessons of experience, both positive and negative, hold the potential for learning that can lead to future accomplishment and success.