Leaving A Positive Leadership Legacy In Your Life
By Jeffrey W. Foley
Many successful business people have pondered their leadership legacy; how do they want to be remembered? And many of them struggle to find the answer. Your legacy is defined by the impact you have on the lives of others after you are gone. It is how you will be remembered. We are all leaving a legacy; there is no escaping it. If asked, how would you respond to this question: “What do you want your leadership legacy to be?”
However old or young, you have the opportunity to raise the bar on the legacy you are leaving. Whether you are a senior executive, in a new position in your business, a new parent or grandparent, a student or recent graduate, you can choose your legacy. Or, perhaps you have had a setback in your life; it is never too late to refocus on what you can change—your legacy.
The most effective business leaders are people who ultimately pursue five separate, but related, behaviors. These five can provide the framework for you in your pursuit of creating a positive leadership legacy in life.
- Character. Being a person of character is at the foundation of building trust with others. Character is who we are and what we stand for. It is comprised of many things, but its foundation is values; those deep beliefs like integrity, loyalty, and respect. Values do not change overnight; rather, they are forged in one’s heart and soul over time. They ultimately drive how we behave. When you think of those people who left a wonderful legacy for you, was not character the essence of the memory?
- Attitude. Your attitude can change everything you do and everyone you meet. No one enjoys hanging out with chronic complainers or naysayers. A positive attitude can be a force multiplier in daily interactions or long-term strategies. A positive attitude creates passion, enthusiasm, and a call to action. It can change outcomes. You have a choice in your attitude. Make it positive!
- Vision. We all need a vision, or a plan, for our future. A saying attributed to the great Yogi Berra goes: “If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end up someplace else.” A vision provides clear direction for your future. Create your future by putting a mark on the wall of where you want to be one, two, and five years from now. Craft an action plan that identifies your objectives and critical decision points. Establish a set of milestones that will help you achieve your objectives, and then celebrate each achievement as you progress along the way.
- Excellence. Both championship teams and successful businesses do not drift to greatness; they commit themselves to excellence. Commitment means tireless pursuit of doing your absolute best, every day, all the time. Excellence matters in everything you do. If you don’t commit to excellence yourself but demand it from others, you will create a culture of mediocrity. Most people are not interested in mediocrity.
- Relationships. Building trusted relationships with others trumps everything else when it comes to leaving a positive leadership legacy in your world. Serving the needs of others builds trust in relationships. You serve by knowing your people; genuinely caring for them, reaching out to those in need, sacrificing and celebrating with them, and exercising humility, are all important aspects enabling strong relationships. Nowhere is trust between leaders and followers more profound than in the military. You can learn, just like U.S. Military Academy graduates at West Point are required to learn, that is Schofield’s Definition of Discipline. Major General John Schofield in his address to the Corps of Cadets in 1879: “The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an Army.”
You know you will have achieved the goal of building trust when you can feel the spirit of cohesion that permeates the hearts of who serve together.
These five keys will provide a framework for establishing your approach to leaving a positive leadership legacy in your life. On a scale of one to five, with one being not so good, and five being great, how would you assess your behavior in each of the five areas? An action plan should follow your assessment that focuses you, enabling you to grow your ability where needed.
I wish you the best in your leadership journey!
Jeff Foley is a recognized speaker, executive leadership coach, and author of Rules and Tools for Leaders. He is a West Point graduate and retired as a Brigadier General having served 32 years in the Army. Drawing on his unique military experience, Jeff uses his singular insight to build better leaders. For more information on Jeff Foley, visit www.loralmountain.com.