Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What is the legacy of a leader?

Although much has been written about leadership and the qualities of a leader, one often overlooked aspect of leadership is the concept of legacy. What kind of legacy does a leader leave once they are gone?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a legacy is “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor”. That means that the legacy of a leader is what they hand down when they pass the reigns of leadership to someone else. It’s not a physical thing like a scepter that represents power or wisdom, and it’s not about systems or processes that make the business run. In terms of leadership, a legacy represents the intangible assets of the organization that make it different than their competitors. You might call it the culture, but that may not be broad enough to cover all aspects of what the leader leaves behind.

The problem is that too few leaders give much thought to their legacy beyond the new products offered during their watch or the merger that redefined the company’s place in the market. In some cases, these items may indeed represent the leader’s entire legacy. If so, that leader has fallen far short of the requirements to be a great leader.

Too often, leaders view their role rather selfishly and believe that the success of the company, or even just their individual department, is tied directly to their own brilliance and astute understanding of the technical details of the organization. The organization will surely fail without them, as no one can have the insights into the customers as they can. They have built the entire organization around the strength of their own personality and it’s clear to all that they can never truly be replaced. You can almost see their glee when they look back at the old organization and see that, without their leadership, the organization is struggling to perform or maintain their standards.

Perhaps you are recognizing these traits in some of your prior leaders at all levels of the organization. Leaders who leave a legacy that begins to fade almost as soon as their name is taken off the door. These leaders really don’t care about what happens after they are gone. They don’t care about the people, the products, or the customers. Instead, they think only of themselves.

Now, there is another type of leader who tends to leave a longer lasting legacy, even if it is not a positive one. There are certainly those leaders who leave a legacy of despair, and even brokenness. They come in like a deadly storm and lay waste to the organization without blinking an eye. Soon after their arrival, key members of the organization are suddenly no longer there. They have either been asked to leave or have decided on their own that they are no longer a good fit in the organization.

But, we will talk more about these leaders in our next edition.

At ECI Learning Systems LLC, we are dedicated to helping companies get the greatest return from their most valuable asset: their employees. We work with you to align 3 key organizational factors;
• Your Company Culture
• The Leadership Styles of your key managers
• The Expectations of your Employees

When these 3 factors are aligned, you create an energy in your company that improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, increases creativity, and positively impacts your bottom line. Contact ECI Learning Systems LLC today to get your free Workplace Evaluation.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Dave,

    I think it is important for all of us to think of our legacy. I like Coveys exercise where he asks us to imagine the eulogies at our own funeral. When we think like this it forces us to think about the impact we have through our business, our relationships and even our conversations.

    When we think like this we actually put more thought and consideration into our "legacy".