“Great leaders intentionally influence and develop other leaders, build teams and foster collaborative culture. In other words, they become Legacy Leaders, building a multigenerational thumbprint for others who will use these same principles of learning and training with their own staff members.” Drs. Jeannine Sandstrom and Lee Smith, Legacy Leadership.
Living one’s legacy rather than leaving it behind is likely something I’ve always thought about, even if unconsciously. It is grounded in my family values; we were raised to do our best, to strive to do our best. We did not “try.” That was a word my parents did not use very often. If you decided to do something, you went out there and did your very best, and if you were not committed to doing your best, you didn’t bother. This has translated into a workplace philosophy that has guided my work. What was “best” and what type of thumbprint was I leaving for others?
I found I had more joy if what I was doing was creating more value for my staff and colleagues than I had when I was thinking about my next promotion or my accolades. So, by working with peers, leaders, and staff, I was focused on what I could do for them. And, in doing for them, I did for myself. The “leftover” benefit of that was that I got their joy; I got to see them succeed, and in that, I too felt success.
In 2002, I met a company of two women, Drs. Sandstrom and Smith, who had established a firm called CoachWorks®. They developed a ‘leadership model from the inside out, looking first at leaders who are, then what they do’. They based on their coaching work with CEOs called “Legacy Leadership.” I felt that if I had had this type of leadership model when I was working in corporate, it would have anchored me in being a better leader. The program is about helping leaders to step into leadership and grow other leaders. It is about living your legacy versus leaving it.
Sandstrom and Lee codified the behaviours of successful leaders and identified five best practices to begin living one’s legacy:
- Be a holder of vision and values. This is about direction and commitment. Rarely do we as individuals who work in corporations shape vision and values; they are usually given to us as employees. The concept of holding it, not grasping it tightly but holding it quite lightly, really resonated.
- Be a creator of collaboration and innovation. This concerns the environment of working relationships. I have always had a belief that no one goes it alone; there is always someone with whom you are collaborating, who is going to help you as you help them move forward.
- Be an influencer of inspiration and leadership.
- Be an advocator of differences in the community. This is not just about “diversity;” it is about distinction and inclusion. There can be differences between colleagues that have had very similar life experiences; where we get the power is in having the conversation that leverages vs. ignores our difference. It opens up new doorways and gives us new avenues to explore so when we come back holding the vision and values we do so in a way that collaboration powers our ability to truly innovate.
- Be a calibrator of responsibility and accountability. This is about execution and performance. Responsibility is before the act, saying, “I will.” Accountability is after, it is dealing with the outcome, dealing with being successful or the consequences of not.
And, now let us return to best practice 3 – the heart of this model – being an influencer of inspiration and leadership. This is about connecting with others and moving forward. Really connecting is at the heart of all relationships. This is a philosophy or belief system that I’ve tried to internalize as I work with others, whether as a consultant, an educator, or a coach.
Legacy Leadership gives me a model of leadership to hold on to and to think about in increasing my own self-awareness, as I strive to improve my ability to self-manage, and as I learn to self-generate. I do this so that I can then do the same with my clients and together we can ‘live our legacy – today’.