A focus on legacy leadership will drive every decision that you make and every action that you take. But what is Legacy Leadership? And what does it have to do with me?
Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value.
— Albert Einstein
It surprises me how many husbands and fathers don’t spend enough time thinking about their legacy — what they will leave behind for the family that they love and the people they serve. I won’t even go into how many husbands and fathers only carry the life insurance supplied by their employer. But they seem to care more about the financial legacy they will leave than any other legacy that will be left behind.
A Personal Note
But the harsh reality is that each of us is leaving a legacy whether we realize it or not or whether we want to or not. The question is whether or not it is a legacy that is positive and has far-reaching implications for the following generations. And for me, the legacy that I want to leave is a spiritual one. That is an intensely personal legacy that will have far-reaching impacts for my family.
But there are other legacies that I should be concerned with. Perhaps you would do well to consider them as well.
What does “Legacy” mean?
Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as, “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”
Legacy is not bound by age or by time served. A legacy represents our entire body of work at each stage of our life as we establish the foundational building blocks of a family and accumulate the required wisdom to contribute to the success of that family unit. Our legacy grows with each new experience, with each test or trial, and with each time we inspire others to see something beyond their current circumstances.
For many, leaving a legacy is associated with the end rather than the beginning of one’s life. I would submit to you today that thinking about the end instead of the beginning is a little like closing the barn door after the horses have run out of the barn. It is a little too late for that.
Our leadership is not shaped and our legacy is not defined by the end of the road but rather by the moments we’ve shared along the way, the decisions we’ve made, the actions we’ve taken, and even the mistakes that we have overcome throughout the many phases of our life.
Ever On My Mind
This whole legacy phenomenon has been on my mind a great deal lately. I get daily reminders from my three grandchildren that the things that I do on a daily basis are being observed and are being processed by their young minds. I have very little margin for error based on the feedback that I get from them on a regular basis.
I have sat beside the hospital bedside of some loved ones over the last few weeks. They are fine and I am seeing many more years ahead of them where they can continue to influence me and others. And I am very clear of the legacy that they are leaving when their time comes. In each of their cases it is a legacy of selflessness and true servant leadership. I have observed them even more closely than my grandchildren are observing me — at least I think so.
So, what is the kind of Legacy that we should leave behind?
Again, I am going to speak a little personally here. Perhaps like me, you probably want to impact your world with your life. You want to be known for something. You want to invent something, you want to write a great novel, you want to be in the Hall of Fame for whatever your favorite sport happens to be.
The reality is that you and I, in fact, are impacting our world even if we don’t realize it. The problem may be that it is just somehow not how we envisioned it would be when we drew it out in our youth.
What is the leadership legacy that you want to leave behind? What words do you want to be spoken as folks stand around as they lay you in the ground someday? I am not trying to be somber or morose. But, I am just reminded lately of the fact that thinking and planning a legacy starts very early in our lives. I love quotes and there is an old proverb that seems fitting right now. It says; “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now.” It is not too late for you. You can work on your leadership legacy starting today, starting right now.