Hundreds of thousands of business leaders work in the corporate world today, but few of those leaders will be remembered after their last day on the job. Indeed many effective leaders complete their journeys and then vanish without a trace being left at their organization.
How is it that some leaders can make a lasting impact?
“Begin with the end in mind” the saying goes. That's precisely what legacy leadership is all about. A lasting impact can’t be achieved at the tail end of a person's tenure at an organization or the very year a leader starts planning to retire. A legacy is created throughout the course of a career.
It's made up of decisions and actions (and even includes the mistakes made along the way). Legacy leadership is a continuous process involving all the work done from a person's first supervisory position through the last day on the job.
At every stage in your career, be focused on creating sustainable influence, assuring that your mark will be imprinted on those who remain.
As a leadership coach, I often put myself in the shoes of the people I work with. If I were at the top of an organization, thinking about retirement, I'd want to know that the remaining leaders have clearly embraced the organization's vision and culture and that they have the necessary tools and knowledge to continue to move the enterprise closer to that vision long after my departure. So how can you do this?
Communication is a key pillar of legacy leadership. To leave behind a team that will continue to foster your vision, consistently communicate it. Reinforce the mission and vision of the organization by sharing stories. At weekly meetings, set aside time to recognize someone who demonstrated a specific value of the organization. Encourage others to identify employees who demonstrate company values.
Have a strong sense of self-awareness and consistently lead by example. Everything you do as a leader must reinforce the mission, vision and values you're trying to instill in the team.
Because a legacy is created day by day, year by year, leaders should be constantly engaged in a process of self-improvement. Truly effective leaders ask for feedback regularly and act on it. They take input provided by mentors, coaches and team members and put it into action. These leaders also engage in regular self-reflection.
To keep yourself focused on legacy leadership, ask these questions:
Who among the leaders around you is focused on creating a lasting legacy?
What do these leaders do that you'd like to emulate?
Does your enterprise have a culture that will allow you to create a lasting legacy?
Do the leaders, managers and supervisors of the organization deeply believe in your vision? What actions do they take to move the company toward that goal?
Will you retain and advance the people who have bought into your vision?
Is the vision and mission of the company clearly communicated to every employee --at every level?
Where do the gaps lie? What steps can you take to start bridging those gaps today?
Legacy leadership is not necessarily about the products and services you leave behind. It is more about the people who will continue to carry on your vision after you leave the organization. When you stay focused on the future and the people who will carry your vision forward, you can begin to create a solid foundation for a lasting leadership legacy.