Most people think about legacy at the end of their careers as they near retirement age. But the time to think about it is now as that will make you a better leader today. And a better team mate no matter your position!
A key question to ponder is when should you start thinking about the legacy you are leaving as a leader, employee, friend? So often people feel they are too young or too old to think about their legacy at all. But based on my experience and the rewards that come from doing so, the time to think about YOUR legacy is now.
That commonly held opinion that most people only think about legacy at the end of their careers is being challenged. And I am totally onboard with this alternative school of thought. Robert Galford and Regina Maruca, authors of “Your Leadership Legacy”, advocate that “thinking about your legacy now makes you a better leader today no matter how far you are from retirement.” Based on interviews they conducted with people at all organizational levels it’s their firm belief we all should be engaged in legacy thinking, a forward thinking tool that is
counter-intuitive to what we typically think of as legacy work. Another source that supports that same thought would be “A Leader’s Legacy”, by Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner. They support what I have definitely seen myself firsthand. That is the fact that thinking about our own legacy leads us to view our actions today in a much broader, bigger context. Kind of like my standard practice of asking those I work with what kind of path they want to create and leave behind. Do they want to leave a calming, comforting ripple effect of positive actions and words or…..a tidal wave that swamps the boat and drowns all aboard! The concept of legacy thinking forces us to go break the perpetual, common practice of short-term thinking and consider the past, present and future.
As leaders, front-line workers, friends and colleagues, whether we realize it or not we are leaving a legacy with the decisions we make and the actions we take. Our own legacy is created solely by us. We live our legacy daily, and it can be a good one or it can be a bad one.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
- What are two or three personal characteristics (skills, behaviors, or values) for which you would most like to be remembered?
- What have you learned in your current role, your work, and your life so far that you would most like to pass on to others?
- How will you convey that learning?
- What do we want people to remember about us as leaders, colleagues, friends?
- What influence are we having on others on a daily basis?
What a great thing for people to actually want to leave a positive wakebehind them rather than a raging tidal wave. It reflects on how we treat others, personally and professionally. And in doing so, what kind of difference we might have made on their lives. And organizations should love this type of thought and concern. Why? It means less internal focus and potential miscommunication, conflict, stress and reduced productivity. It does mean more outwardly focused thinking. Looking at the greater good but also how the individual exhibiting that behavior and style shows up. In other words, all those things making it a potential win-win for those involved. Always the ultimate outcome to strive for indeed.