This week Barack Obama has given his farewell address; it was his opportunity to spell out what he had achieved during office, which by his own admission is only 70-75% of what he intended. In a recent poll, 57% of Americans still perceive Obama favourably…but what will be his true leadership legacy? How will he be remembered in 1, 5, 10, 50 years time? I’ll leave that question with the commenters and instead turn the focus onto you. Have you considered what will be your own leadership legacy?
Legacy is commonly defined as something handed down by a predecessor (or ancestor). To me, legacy building as a leader is about leaving an organisation stronger, more productive and more valuable than before you stepped into the leadership role. But it goes beyond profit; it’s about the impact you have on people. To me, your legacy is the way that people think, behave, approach work and approach life in general, as a result of having worked with you. You will be remembered as much for the way you worked as the outcomes you achieved.
With leadership comes responsibility, the All Blacks put it another way, they talk about leaving the jersey in a better place. Leaving a legacy is about passing on your best, being a good ancestor by ‘planting trees you’ll never see’.
If you think back to the leaders you have worked with, what were the trees they planted, what was it that they did that made your think/act differently? In what way do you emulate their behaviour?
You could argue that ‘bad’ ancestors also leave a legacy. You may recall a leader you have vehemently decided not to emulate; their legacy may be negative but it’s still their legacy…their indelible footprint!
The starting point to building your own leadership legacy, is to ask yourself what do I want to leave behind as a leader? And then to honestly assess your current impact, what would you leave behind as a leader if you were to disappear tonight?