If you want to leave a legacy, invest in people, and encourage those you develop to pass on everything they learn from you to others who will do the same.
– John Maxwell
A leader owes it to his organization to lead in a way that will benefit the organization in the future. Though it is important for the organization to be successful during your tenure, leading in a way that benefits the organization in the future through relationships, strategic planning, and vision provides an enduring impact that will have a larger effect on people and the organization. Achieving this type of impact does not happen without focus. The easiest way to develop and maintain this focus is by considering your legacy – how your term as leader will be remembered.
No matter what position you currently occupy, you have some consideration of how your current performance will affect your next opportunity. Depending on the career path, this can cause short-term thinking and planning to achieve a goal so that it can be claimed during a particular time frame. This can cause conflict when the decision that would benefit the organization best in the future delays the achievement of short- term goals.
I find that I often benefit by observing situations that my children experience. My daughter, a budding leader in her own right, recently came across a situation that we were able to discuss from a leadership perspective. A senior captain on the field hockey team recently sent out a letter to the team. She is a very good player and I believe her heart was in the right place, but her message was conflicted. She began with placing accountability on her teammates to attend summer workouts and events so they could improve, which was good. She finished with a statement that showed that she was singularly focused on her upcoming senior season and as a result ostracized younger players. As my daughter and I discussed this, I was able to explain how this approach did not serve the team well for the long- term. As a current leader and potential future captain of the team, she was very quick to understand the value of being inclusive and considering the future of the program over the needs and desires of the individual and immediate goals.
This situation emphasizes the most common dilemma as it comes to short- term versus long- term focus. That is, the willingness to invest time in younger and more inexperienced team members at the potential expense of immediate reward or success. Focusing on the experienced members of the team to accomplish a mission of task quickly and efficiently certainly has value. It needs to be buffered with the development of future team members who will need to be key members of the organization in the future. Without a focus on developing future talent, the organization will be much weaker or limited as personnel changes take place.
As a military member in the National Guard and as a teacher, I have had the opportunity to advance within the same organization for a very long time. I have observed many leaders over the years and how their tenure has benefited the organization after their departure. Those that have the best legacy are not the ones with the biggest or most impressive accomplishments during their tenure, but those that effectively communicated their vision and built relationships across the organization. I have determined that the leaders who cared more about the organization than their individual goals and accomplishments have had the biggest impact on the organization and me personally.
What is your focus? How will your organization benefit from your tenure? What will your legacy be?