Remember Where You Came From

A Key to Leading Organizational Change


There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often – I don’t hear it as much anymore.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

And, if you were one of my relatives – talking to me – you might have said it with emphasis.

“Don’t forget where you came from – boy!”

I think there’s a good leadership principle here too.

“Don’t forget where you came from.”

An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.

But, it should never forget where it came from.

The church where I pastor has over 100 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)

We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the four years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.

I’m convinced, however, one of the reasons we’ve grown is we’ve tried not to forget this principle.

We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me. I tell stories from the past.

If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.

Celebrate the past.

Celebrate the past leadership.

Celebrate the triumphs.

Celebrate the pain.

Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times – and, there may have been leaders you would rather not celebrate, but the past is the past. It’s important to remember where the church has been, even if only what the church was able to overcome. These were likely significant days in somone’s life. 

I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all which happened in the past. This seems especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, it’s the healthiest or best way.

Leadership may be able to move quickly in a new direction, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember – and for their leaders to remember – from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.

If you’re leading in an established environment, recognize, honor, and remember the past. It’s what got you where you are today – good or bad. Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership – it’s been effective – I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.

Remember where you came from, boy. (Or girl)

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3 thoughts on “Remember Where You Came From

  1. Apart from "Don't forget where you came from", there is another known saying which also gives out a possible consequence to those who don't look back. It is, "Those who don't look back from where you came from won't be able to make it to the place where they would want to be. For me, looking back hasa lot of use. It help me see how far I've come and it made me remember of things that I don't want to happen to me again.