When a leader leaves their job – and one day, they of course will – what will be their legacy? What will colleagues, observers and the industry at large think that they achieved?
Very few leaders think about this when they start on their leadership journey. And why should they?
They start to assume new responsibility and accountability; they’ve got added pressure (and even stress); and is any new leader really going to stick their neck out and start making out grand plans about ‘their legacy’ when they’re just getting comfortable in their new role?
But legacy is another way of thinking about purpose and vision.
In many ways, it makes it more real for leaders. It’s not simply some grand purpose that your company aspires to (and seems never to get any closer to achieving); it comes down to what you helped to change/deliver/achieve/inspire/create/grow/build/shape (delete as appropriate).
It requires vision, but it also puts the emphasis on delivery.
It has a sell-by date, so there’s a greater urgency.
It requires strong leadership.
But importantly, it is everything to do with what the team achieves rather than what you say.
So it means that leaders have to be good at leading.
Of course, a legacy can be interpreted in different ways. Will Mark Zuckerberg ultimately be seen as a champion of connecting people or someone who helped to create a problem none of us can solve?
Similarly, Churchill’s legacy seems to be under attack. But we know what happened to the last hostile force to take on Churchill…