By Michael Holland     

Adolf Hitler has a legacy.  He left a rippling wake from his leadership. As soon as you saw that name you had an immediate reaction to the legacy he has left and understandably a very negative reaction.  Now consider Abraham Lincoln who also has a legacy.  He left a rippling wake from his leadership as well.  And while there may be a very, very small group of people who believe his legacy as infamous, the vast majority of people will look at Lincoln’s legacy in a very positive light.  Many in recent history have taken tremendous inspiration from Lincoln.

Leaders get up every day and put one foot in front of the other as they go off to work to slay the dragons of the day.  They move from meeting to meeting, conversation to conversation, email to email, sloshing through the work of the day attempting to motivate and lead a team of employees forward.  Progress can be slow and, at times, the leader may wonder what purpose he may be fulfilling and in deeper thoughts, what legacy he is leaving.  Employees too may wonder the same questions albeit from a vastly different perspective.

Great leaders walk a different path.  They seek to visualize the legacy they will leave as they begin each day.  They invest energy to align themselves around their prime directive.  They start with the end in mind to guide them forward, to create the blueprint for the future that weaves in their values and goals.  Every day is an opportunity to impact people, the organization and community and build a positive legacy.

Great leaders seek to visualize the legacy they will leave as they begin each day.

To successfully build a legacy, you must answer three critical questions according to Bob Rosen in his recent book, Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World:

  1. Who am I? What are my core values, and what are the experiences that formed them?
  2. What do I want? What do I want to achieve, who do I aspire to be, and what higher purpose am I serving?
  3. How do I show up in my role? How do I shape my environment and deploy my strengths, what do I need from my work, and what is my desired impact?

At first pass I found these questions to be somewhat bland.  But putting fingers to keyboard to articulate answers, I quickly found that the questions require deep thought if I want to answer honestly and be in a position to take action upon my answers.

Good leaders who are striving to have an impact will invest time with these questions and with articulating the legacy they hope to leave.  Great leaders take the next step: they will act and behave in ways that reveal their answers to these questions.

What will you do?

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • How would you articulate the legacy you wish to leave?
  • Which of Rosen’s 3 questions is the easiest for you to answer?  Why do you think that question is the easiest?
  • Think through the leaders you have worked for throughout your career and rate their legacy.  Now think through the qualifiers or factors you used to rate those leaders; why are those qualifiers/factors important to you?