Farewell to a Leader Who Lived His Legacy.
Regardless of your political persuasion or even your nationality, how could you fail to be moved by the recent collective remembrance and ceremonious farewell to Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States? The outpouring of respect and affection for the “Great Communicator” provoked me to reflect, not only upon his leadership accomplishments, but on his unique leadership capabilities, both of which contribute to his leadership legacy.
Historians argue, that even 16 years out of the White House, we do not yet really know which Reagan legacy will stand the test of time. But for thousands of ordinary citizens who stood in line for hours to pay their respects, and for those who formally eulogized him in our National Cathedral, that legacy is clear.
Barbara Huff, a school nurse from Pennsylvania, commented simply, “He was a man of his word, had a great sense of humor and brought down the Berlin Wall.” Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney declared that Mr. Reagan “does not enter history tentatively, he does so with certainty and panache.” Former President Bush, his voice choked with emotion, declared, “I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life. I learned kindness…I also learned courage…and I learned a lot about humor, a lot about laughter.”
Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, in a tribute to Reagan (New York Post 6/11/04) wrote: “Ronald Reagan demonstrated the powerful impact that people with strong beliefs can have, particularly when coupled with an awesome talent for communicating. He had the ability to envision a different future…[his] 'secret weapon' was the depth with which he believed in what he was saying. Listeners could feel his sincerity and it persuaded them…All the love he had for the country and the spirit of America, all his patriotism — it came from his heart and his soul…He reminded us that we are capable of great accomplishments.”
Even Reagan wanted to leave for history his own perspective on what drove his leadership decisions and actions. Engraved on his sepulcher overlooking the Pacific Ocean, are Mr. Reagan's own words that reflect his leadership essence: “I know that in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
Will history judge this man to be a great President? Sidney Hook, author of the book The Hero in History, defines a man or woman of historical greatness as “someone of whom we can say….that if they had not lived when they did, or acted as they did, the history of their countries and of the world….would have been profoundly different”. Does Reagan fit that description? One person who certainly has a valid perspective is Mikhail Gorbachev, who said in an interview not long ago, “If someone else had been in his place, I don't know if what happened would have happened.”
Some will remember Reagan for his accomplishments to overcome communism and others for restoring America's faith in itself and its leaders. Others will remember him as the kind and generous soul who never forgot the little people. These are all personal leadership lessons that are indelibly imprinted on people's lives. For those whom he touched do not need more time or an historian's blessing to give his life more meaning. To us they are President Reagan's leadership legacy…for today and tomorrow.
Ronald Reagan: A Life in Pictures (1911-2004) with a foreword by Dan Rather Life Books, an imprint of Time Inc. Home Entertainment, has just published a “coffee-table” commemorative book of Ronald Reagan's life, filled with pictures and stories from his childhood, through his Hollywood years and on into his life on the world stage. The early black and white pictures are a reminder of just how much the world changed during Reagan's lifetime!
The poignant last picture in the book is one of Reagan riding off into a forest on his trusted horse, and I was reminded of the last time we heard from our 40th President. In his own handwriting he announced to the world that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. His touching optimism was reflected in his last words, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.”
This lovely book will be a present to our daughter with whom we'll share a memorable piece of the 20th Century.
Actions for Results: Tips and Tools for Getting Breakthrough Results
No matter what your title or role is, you are leaving a leadership legacy, whether you intend to or not. The question is: Are you living the leadership legacy today that you intend to leave tomorrow?
There are three critical leadership legacy actions we should take to ensure an alignment between the espoused and intentional leadership we aspire to be remembered for in our words and actions today: Analyze your Leadership Drivers: Reflect on the life experiences and mentors who have shaped the leader you are today. What was their impact on you? What lessons did you learn? What are the leadership values that influence your actions today?
Create Your Desired Leadership Legacy: Your leadership legacy is “the memorable and lasting impact you have on others”. What do you want that to be? What invaluable leadership lessons do you want to teach others through your words and actions?
Ask yourself: “Do I have a Leadership Legacy Gap”? What is your “leadership brand” today? It is the image and perceptions that describes how others experience their leadership relationship with you. Is this consistent with your intended leadership legacy? Do you need to strengthen your capabilities or make other strategic changes to bridge any gap that may exist?
President Reagan did not obsess over his historic legacy, nor should you. However, we all need a conscious awareness that when we are in a leadership role, whether it be at work, as a parent, or in our communities, we are seen as a role model, like it or not. What leadership lessons are you modeling and leaving behind for others to follow…or not?
“We were all inspired by your presentation on 'The Leader's Legacy.' If you don't mind, I'd like to pass on some of your thoughts to the rest of the organization.”
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& General Manager
John Wiley & Sons, Inc
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