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While we typically think of a "leadership legacy" applying to high-profile, top-level leaders, it is never too early to start thinking about your own leadership legacy. Leaders should always be focused on the things that they will be remembered for and what imprint they will make on an organization after they depart.

When it Comes to Leadership Legacy, it is People Who Matter

There are different types of legacies. Some leaders, like Steve Jobs are remembered for their product innovations. While he is certainly an icon, it is important to remember throughout your career that products and services are always changing. The one thing that remains constant in any organization is people. Companies provide products and services, but it is the people that make the difference day in and day out, and they are the ones who ultimately determine the success of an organization.

A leader that is focused on his or her legacy thinks about how they impact the people around them, creating a sustainable, living, breathing organization. They work hard to develop those people into better leaders themselves. It is that line of succession that will provide a continued legacy for a company. In order to start taking control of your legacy, pay attention to how you are influencing those who work with and for you. Are you taking time to mentor talented individuals? What are you doing to instill your own values in those around you?

Start Living Your Legacy Long Before You Enter the C-Suite

The concept of a leadership legacy isn't just for members of the C-Suite. Leaders at all levels should think about what type of mark they are going to leave on an organization. This can be a challenge, as tenures are not as long as they once were. A few generations ago, leaders stayed with an organization for 30 years or more. Today, the average leader stays five years. Creating a long-term impact in a short period of time takes concentrated focus, and a genuine interest in cultivating the success of those around them.

The higher your level of leadership in a company, the more impact your legacy will have on the organization, to be sure. However, leaders that head up small teams or individual product lines can still leave a mark. We often think about a legacy in terms of the past- what a leader has done throughout the years that makes them memorable. However, each legacy is created based on individual actions that happen day by day, person by person, project by project.

Therefore, in order to start creating your own legacy, you should think of that legacy as a catalyst for action now, rather than something to be considered after the fact. This will force you to be intentional about each action you take today. Instead of thinking about a legacy in terms of the past, use it to create a forward-thinking approach to how you manage your team today to ensure your influence creates impact over the long-term.

Legacy Thinking Today

"Legacy thinking" can help managers and leaders bridge the divide between their daily behaviors and their long-term impact on an organization and its people. This type of thinking allows you to approach each action and decision with a new perspective. Legacy thinking also provides you with a tool that will help you check yourself on a regular basis to ensure that your personal priorities are aligned with the organization's vision, and that those priorities are reflected in your actions.

Legacy thinking can be a process for self-reflection and discovery and can help you grow as a leader in many ways:
  • If you consistently take on too much, a legacy mode of thinking will help you determine where you are having the greatest impact. It lets you release some control of those areas where you do not have an impact, aligning your priorities.
  • Thinking about your legacy will allow you to identify when and where your time is not benefiting others.
  • Legacy thinking will allow you to see clearly when it might be time to make a move, either up a rung at your current company, or at another organization where your talents and priorities are better aligned.
  • When you make your legacy a priority, succession planning suddenly becomes incredibly important. Who below you can take on some of your responsibilities? Who shows the drive and the talent to take your place when you move on?
  • Legacy thinking gives your tasks a greater sense of purpose. Rather than simply tackling goals and KPIs for the sake of achieving them, it gives those goals and KPIs greater meaning.

What are you going to do today to ensure that you are remembered in a positive way long after you move on to the next phase of your career?


Larry Hart

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