As a leader, you've probably put at least some thought into your legacy. However, I've found that many leaders concentrate only on the legacy they will leave when they retire or die. While this, of course, important, there are plenty of other legacies you leave throughout the course of your career. If you leave on position for another, for example, you're leaving a legacy with people you no longer work with. You're even leaving a legacy after you participate in a conference or otherwise influence people you don't work with on a regular basis. What is the wake you want to leave behind in these situations? How do you want others to think of you and how do you want to impact them? Thinking about this now will help you show up in these situations in a way that will leave the legacy you want rather than just the legacy that happened.
Deciding What Type of Leader You Want Them to Remember
Too many of us leave a legacy that we never intended to leave. Whether we're walking out of a room, out of a workforce, or out of this life, we allow circumstances, other people and a host of other things to determine our legacy for us. As leaders, we must be intentional when it comes to creating both our short-term and long-term legacies. To be intentional, we must know what we want.
Do you want to be remembered as a compassionate leader who always took the time to listen? An innovative leader who was always up on the latest trends and knew how to incorporate them into your business? A humble leader who never passed up an opportunity to give praise and lift others up? Making the decision about what type of leader you want to be is the first step in aligning your actions with your goals.
Once you have made the decision, you must keep it first and foremost in your mind at all times. You don't leave legacies by sometimes acting in a certain way -- you must consistently embody your leadership values in as many situations as possible. One of my favorite quotes is by psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." As a leader, you must use that space to ensure that your worlds or actions in response to a stimulus fall in line with your intentions.
Setting the Tone
Leaders who leave a great legacy don't only walk the walk, as the saying goes. They encourage their team members to walk that same walk with them. This means you need to engage your team and talk to them about your values and how you want them to be incorporated in the workplace. It means listening to others and making sure they value the same things as you do and helping them to align their actions as well. Encouraging others to dig deep and identify what matters to them and how they're showing up each day helps them grow. It might also eliminate some bad seeds in your organization that is bringing everyone down.
Your legacy is not a one-time goal that is left at the end of your career. Instead, it's an ongoing process and incorporates how you affect those around you when you walk out of a room, walk out of a company, or walk out of their lives. If you don't choose your legacy and take intentional steps toward achieving it, it will be decided for you and you may not like it, so don't leave something as important as your leadership legacy to others!
Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world's top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior-level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior-level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org.