One way or another you will leave a legacy. Most dictionary definitions are consistent—a legacy is a gift or bequest. Sometimes the legacy is tangible, in other words, it is something you give another upon death. Sometimes the legacy is more intangible, where you leave an imprint on another person or persons. While legacies are often talked about relational to one’s death, I have come to appreciate that legacies occur in the work environment and are given when a leader leaves. Because transformational leaders focus on others in everything they do, an imprint is left on everyone they touch and it is typically a favorable imprint.
Being thoughtful about this imprint or legacy is a gift leaders give to employees. For most of one’s career and life, is much thought given to leaving a legacy? For me, little thought was given initially. That changed when the desire to make a difference in the lives of those I served became a passion. When I began to care deeply about the culture under my authority, legacy took on meaning. My legacy is to help other leaders thrive and favorably impact the people they serve—employees and customers. And it is happening! Leaders I am privileged to serve, grow with passion to lead well. They develop strong leadership habits that favorably impact the culture they create and the people they serve.
George Mason University provides a great set of resources for people to develop a legacy. The site provides an example of a legacy built on what is occurring today around young adults’ behavior and how behavior can be impacted. There is a set of tools on the site available to help you think through your legacy.
Creating a written or stated legacy is important particularly if you want to make a favorable difference in the lives of others. One source speaks of a legacy as imprinting of a life. If you have a particular passion or idea you wish to have live on, developing a legacy needs to be a purposeful activity. Otherwise, you may find yourself among most leaders where your legacy will be left, it may not be positive and sadly, you are unaware.
To build a legacy that is positive and lives on requires thoughtfulness about what kind of leader you are and what kind of leader you want to be. What is your dream legacy that will impact others favorably? Does your leadership style need to be altered some in order to help others more? Do you know currently if you hurt or help others?
For years, my intentions were pure with a strong desire to be a great leader and leave a favorable legacy. Frankly, after finally being able to hear truth, there was major work to do to change me and improve my effectiveness as a leader. And if I didn’t improve, it would impact my desired legacy. The good news is, once aware, change was possible, my leadership abilities improved greatly and the legacy desired continues to be left impacting other leaders and employees.
Lou Tice, co-founder of Pacific Institute and motivational speaker, died a year ago. While working as a high school football coach early in his career, he started his company, which specializes in leadership development. Every article written about him at the time of his death speaks to the imprint he made on people’s lives. In one article it mentions that he touched over 33 million people around the world with his education. He left an incredible legacy—he wanted to help people, and he did.
If something happened to you today or you left your organization, what kind of legacy would be left? Would it be the gift you desire to give others? If not, take time today to think about a purposeful legacy and what it would take to achieve it. The result will be positive, you will give a gift that lives on—your legacy.