In life, we often hear talk of legacy associated with a famous person who has passed on. For a longtime now, however, I have contemplated the question of legacy, spoken on legacy, and written about it. In conversations with clients and those I have the privilege of mentoring, I am certain to ask – “What impact do you desire to have achieved once your work on earth is done?” And I personally practice what I preach by asking myself the legacy question at the conclusion of my work with others. It goes something like this, “What value did I add that is certain to outlive the work I have done here?” I ask these questions not to focus on the accomplishments of the leader. Rather, the impetus for such questions is to turn the attention toward the people a leader has the chance to impact. In other words, what have you done with the gift of opportunity to positively impact the lives of others – both now and into the future?
After a recent speaking engagement, I was humbled to hear one of the leaders in the room comment openly on how she had been helped when I raised the legacy question with her in preparation for her move into the role of President for the organization. Frankly, her critique of the value of being asked the legacy question “up front” inspired this week’s discussion.
Truthfully, when I first embraced the idea of legacy leadership as a tool in my work, it was a lot like talking about legacy after a person had passed on, as it was an “after the fact” question. Conversely, in more recent times, I have been able to help others experience the greater value of asking and answering the legacy question at the point of engagement, instead of at the end. This path allows others a more clear opportunity to set specific goals on approaching an assignment in a manner that will yield the greatest impact in the lives of others.
Beyond simply asking the legacy question, specific action steps are necessary. There are, I argue, five action steps or better Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to powerfully impact the lives of others. I call them the Five Living Essentials because they must come alive and be lived in order to make a real difference. You might want to jot them down for personal application.
Intentionality – Intentionality in leadership means you approach leadership intending to achieve something great. You do nothing by accident; rather, you operate from a well thought out and written strategy and plan of action. In other words, the best leaders live with purpose. The intentional leader searches to find the precise reason they live on this earth and are deliberate about the journey to achieve just that. When intention meets purpose, it sets the stage for transformation, and authentic leadership is born from life’s transformational moments.
Authenticity – Authentic leaders are true to the person they say they are and practice ‘what you see is what you get’ type leadership. These leaders refuse to profess one lifestyle while living another. As such, authentic leaders immerse themselves in self-awareness and self-development and emerge more mature with the ability to remove the masks that prevent them from walking in purpose and developing into the unique persons they were intended to be. As an authentic leader, you will ably express vulnerability thus inspiring others to do the same. In fact, authentic leaders admit wrong and embrace change. Instead of simply imitating others, authentic leaders boldly live life as they were created to live. In doing so, these leaders are more capable of being their true selves with others.
Transparency – Transparent leaders operate from a place that allows the light of their innermost selves to be seen by others, as they are marked by the uncanny ability to be candid and open with self and others. In short, authenticity is about self-awareness and self-development while transparency is more about self-disclosure or self-expression that allows others to see your true person. In other words, transparent leaders reveal self in new stratospheres.
Influence – Influence carries the power to produce results, and the most influential leaders realize they both influence and are influenced by others. Influence is an ethical question about you as a leader knowing and understanding your power to influence or be influenced in an ethical manner. Power is simply possessing authority, but influence is the ‘know how’ in using power to achieve good. As such, you strive to know those who are within your sphere of influence and understand you often influence just because you hold the title leader.
Impact – Leaders of impact drive to make a difference in the lives of others. They are driven by the very possibility of leaving behind for future leaders valuable lessons that will cause them to also become leaders of impact. Influence is about how a leader uses power. On the other hand, impact is the result of powerfully using influence in an ethical manner.
In whatever role you work, live, or play, it takes all of these elements to create legacy, and to be distinguished as a leader. Which elements have you already embraced? Which ones do you yet have to adopt? What will be your legacy?
Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G
Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams