Legacy Leadership

By Stephen Carman

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Legacy leadership has a way of causing leaders to pause and reflect. Sometimes those reflections are born from the circumstances of what we see and experience around us in the present moment.

These reflections produce either a sense of affirmation that all is well, or that something needs to change, that the present situation can be better.

Leaders Keeping Resolutions

In these times, we turn our attention to the future and what could be. Many New Year’s resolutions are a product of this type of reflection. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, most of us have struggled to maintain our resolutions past six months.

While it may be tempting to bail on this tradition altogether, this may be an indication that we need more frequent resolutions.

Legacy Leadership Draws Attention to the Past

We recall the good times–experiences and relationships. Some of these reflections bring awareness that mistakes have been made or things have grown stale. Other situations can only produce memories of the past.

Funerals and other memorials are good examples of these types of reflections. A recent family funeral was a sweet time of remembering the many experiences of a loving grandmother as well as a grandfather who passed away ten years before. This was also an encouragement to honor them by continuing the practices and sentiments that they modeled.

The Human Condition is Driven to Leave Our Mark

Individually or collectively, we strive for trophies and titles. Setting and celebrating records and achievements. In the postmodern, individual-centric world we live in today, the desire to leave a legacy is too often self-centered.

John F. Kennedy said, “The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust.” This sentiment speaks to the relationship we all have with one another.

Legacy Leadership

From a leadership perspective, this is an important point. Legacy leadership extends what may often, mistakenly, be understood as an individual and solitary activity.

While the initial catalyst for leadership may start with the initiative of an individual, legacy leadership can only be achieved when leaders develop other leaders.

This development does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in the community.

Wise leaders recognize they are part of a history of leadership (good or bad) that they have come into themselves, influenced in the present, and will shape how those that follow them will lead into the future.

Lasting Greatness

Jeannine Sandstrom and Lee Smith have captured five best practices in their work “Legacy Leadership: The Leader’s Guide to Lasting Greatness” (2008, CoachWorks Press).

  • 1. Holder of Vision and Values
  • 2. Creator of Collaboration and Innovation
  • 3. Influencer of Inspiration and Leadership
  • 4. Advocator of Differences and Community
  • 5. Calibrator of Responsibility and Accountability

I encourage you, as the year draws to a close, to think about the leadership legacy you are participating in.

  • Is your participation active or passive?
  • Are you leading in the context of a community or an individual?
  • Which of the five practices above will you focus on developing in yourself and those around you in the New Year?

What Makes a Legacy Leader?

If you have ideas about legacy leadership that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Stephen Carman
Stephen Carman
Stephen is an organizational Talent Development Architect & Strategist. He has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management and is pursuing a Ph.D in Organization & Management at Capella University.
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