Time Orientation

Zimbardo’s presentation on time orientation was eye opening from a leadership perspective. How people see time defines how they approach life and how they approach decision making. According to Zimbardo, there are numerous time orientations. Those who are past oriented are positively or negatively oriented. Past positive people are those who are nostalgic and look for connections of seeming unrelated past events, while past negative people focus on failures and regrets (Zimbardo, 2010). Present oriented people are either hedonistic or fatalistic: present hedonistic individuals are those who live for pleasure and avoid pain, while present fatalistic are those who believe there is no use in worrying about the future because their lives are fated and they have no choice in the matter (Zimbardo, 2010). Finally, there are those who are future oriented and they are either life-goal oriented or transcendental. Those who are life-goal oriented focus on setting goals and striving for benchmarks in life in pursuit of a better existence, while the transcendentalists are focused primarily on how this life prepares for, and effects, life after death (Zimbardo, 2009).

As leaders, we need to invest some attention into the time orientation of those we lead, which will greatly boost our ability to effectively lead them, as well as add value to their own personal existence. For instance, when goals or objectives are discussed, we as leader immediately have the attention of those who are future oriented, however we may have completely lost those who are past and present oriented, particularly if they are past negative or present fatalistic. By missing the time orientation of those we lead, we may be working in a counterproductive way with the people on our team. This could lead to frustration, and eventually a departing of relationship because of the unknown differences of time orientation.


Zimbardo, P. (2009). The psychology of time. Ted Talks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo4HiVetBd0

Zimbardo, P. (2010). The Secret Powers of Time. RSA ANIMATE. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3oIiH7BLmg


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