In my current leadership role I frequently have the opportunity to speak with parents. Everyone desire’s their children be accomplished and successful. While they never use the term “legacy”, it is an ideal woven into every conversation. It is natural for parents as they reach the latter stages in their life to reflect on their impact on their children’s lives and how they will be remembered by their family.
However, as leaders, the thought of legacy rarely resonates in our thoughts until we are preparing to retire. According to Maxwell’s Law of Legacy, “a leader’s lasing value is measured by succession.” In the book Leadership is an Art, Max Depree (2004) states “Succession is one of the key responsibilities of leadership.” While leaders have the desire to be the best they can be, the thought of their impact on an organization’s success without them is rarely considered. According to John Maxwell, there are four stages leaders move through during their careers.
- Achievement – the leader is doing great things for himself or herself.
- Success – the leader empowers followers to do great things with them.
- Significance – the leader develops leaders do great things for them.
- Legacy – the leader raises his organization to do great things without them.
Most leaders focus their efforts on the first three stages, however only leaders who understand the importance their legacy strive to achieve stage four.
To begin the process of building a leadership legacy, we must undergo a paradigm shift and change our perspective. The first step to changing our mindset is to answer the question “what is my purpose and what do I want to accomplish?” Clare Boothe Luce identified this as our “life sentence” (Maxwell, 2007). So why is it important to develop your life sentence? For the same reason we enter a destination into our navigation system when we are traveling from one destination to another.
Our life sentence provides direction and is the foundation to build our legacy on. Maxwell says to consider the following questions as you prepare to write your life sentence:
- Your life is your book. What are you writing?
- One day, the final chapter will be written. What will it say?
- How does today’s story prepare you for the last chapter?
- What is the one sentence people will say to describe your life?
- Would you like to change that sentence? Pick a new sentence today!
- What we do today, people will say at our funeral. What do you want people to say?
To write your life sentence just state “My life sentence is, I want to _________________________________.”
Once you have your life sentence use it to guide your choices. As you grow and transition through the different stages of your career, you must be intentional to invest in others as your life sentence evolves.
Our lives are a result of our choices. As leaders, we desire to be and do more.
Most people simply accept their lives–they don’t lead their lives”
– John Maxwell
Leaders lead their lives. Maxwell stated, “A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.” Too often leaders put their energy into organizations, buildings, systems, or other lifeless objects. Only people live on after we are gone. Everything else is temporary. As you consider your legacy, reflect on the following:
- What are you leaving behind?
- Who will carry on your legacy?
- What will that legacy look like?
Jackie Robinson once said, “A life isn’t significant except for its impact on other lives.” Only by changing the way we live today, can we change the legacy we will leave.
Dr. Kim Moore
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