As I watched the founder of one of Canada’s best places to work grace the stage, it became apparent that not only was he deeply moved by the reaction of his staff, but also reflective and humbled as his team applauded and stood to honour his legacy. Every team member, as well as managers at all levels, had been impacted by their founder’s philosophy, both personally and professionally.
Rarely have I seen such a display of affection for a leader, for a company. The fabric of the organization’s culture was entirely woven by the values and principles of a very special man. On this occasion, staff had gathered from around the world to celebrate a major milestone in the company’s history. All were acutely aware of the significance of the event and the moment, realizing that the organization’s next chapter would be theirs to write.
In their book A Leader’s Legacy, (John Wiley & Sons, 2006) authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner provide a thought-provoking description of a legacy mindset: “Legacy thinking means dedicating ourselves to making a difference, not just working to achieve fame and fortune. It also means that others will inherit what we leave behind.”
When it comes to leaving our footprint on the world, we can occupy any position within an organization. We also have the potential to profoundly affect those within our immediate personal circle or community. Our legacy is the sum total of our reputation, our influence, our character. When we reflect upon the legacy of an individual who has played a role in shaping our own thinking and worldview, we often consider the following key attributes when describing his or her persona:
Humility is a highly attractive characteristic that demonstrates a level of transparency; something that is often missing in business dynamics. Whether or not you possess the title of “leader”, colleagues and peers are more likely to relate to your public persona when you demonstrate realism during your interactions. By taking a sincere interest in others while reflecting a raw openness regarding similar situations you have experienced, these “human to human” moments leave a lasting impression.
People pay attention to the manner in which we manage ourselves through good times, or challenging times: In a nutshell: how we show up. We establish credibility with our clients, colleagues, families and friends based on consistency. When I ponder my father’s reputation, I think of him as a person who looked at the world through rose-coloured glasses, no matter how much adversity he endured or how difficult life became. Many would describe him similarly. i.e. his consistently optimistic outlook became his legacy.
Do others see you as a person who is true to your word? When you make commitments, do you honour them? Do your peers and/or those closest to you speak well of you in your presence as well as your absence? An individual who operates with integrity is highly respected and above all, trustworthy. By treating your customers well, you build a legacy based on dependability and reliability.
How often do we think about the impact of our words, actions and demenour? Our legacy is being scripted during every interaction. When you step outside of your comfort zone and divulge your humanness without expecting anything in return, there will be a ripple effect beyond your imagination. By operating on a more personable plane with a more conscious awareness of your behaviour, you create the opportunity to leave a positive, enduring legacy.
About the author
A former media executive and highly sought-after business speaker, Michelle Ray (@michelleraycsp) has delivered has delivered her powerful messages on leadership, accountability and engaged workplaces to the C-Suites of global corporations, academia, diverse association and government groups since 1995. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business & in Life and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute.
Image attribiton: “Silhouette Of A Man ” by markuso