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April 2007

What's Your Leadership Legacy?

The recent media coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy has thoughtfully included a look at the legacies of some of these young adults, whose lives were cut short just as they were moving into adulthood with such promise.

One young man's legacy seems particularly poignant. Ryan “Stack” Clark, a dormitory Residential Advisor had rushed to help one of his female residents in the early morning of April 16th. They were the first of thirty-two students to be killed by another student. Both his VT classmates and co-counselors at a camp for disabled children, “Camp Big Heart,” were not surprised that “Stack” ran toward and not away from a cry for help. This senior band member would have graduated with a 4.0 average in three majors and was headed for a Ph.D. His twin brother agreed with his fellow students and colleagues about Ryan's legacy: “He always had a big smile and was ready to help anyone who needed it and that's how he will be remembered.”

Legacies don't just happen, you create them – consciously or unconsciously. Typically, when a re-elected U.S. President hits his second term the media starts asking rhetorically: “So, Mr. President, what do you think your legacy will be?” Whether you're a President, a CEO or an individual professional, if you've waited until the end of your “term” or when you're nearly retired to contemplate what you want your legacy to be…it's too late!

In fact, thinking about your leadership legacy today, can make you an even better leader in the future. You can begin to shape a vision of the type of leader you want to be in the future by asking such question as:

• What are the ways in which I want people to remember me?

• What impact do I want to make on this team, on this company,
    on my clients?

You also can begin to assess if there is a gap between the leader you aspire to be and the one that people are responding to today by asking these questions:

• What reputation do I think I have today with my employees, with my bosses, with my clients?

• What is my “MO,” i.e. my leadership style?

It won't necessarily be easy to identify the changes you need to make to become the leader you want to be. Just know that your day-to-day actions are molding your eventual measure of success as a leader. So you need to be asking yourself every day, not just what it takes to get ahead but, more importantly, what it means to contribute and leave something lasting behind.

Don't limit your thinking about your leadership legacy to just your role in a corporation or firm. What is your legacy as a parent, as a sibling, as a daughter, as a son, as a friend, as a member of your community? To help you look at your broader legacy you might try writing a draft of your eulogy. This is an interesting exercise which I actually did last year on a flight to Germany. The exercise forced me to think about what accomplishments I would be most proud of having achieved, personally and professionally, and how I wanted to be remembered.

After I completed it, it helped me re-shape some of my goals. If I am going to close the gap between how I aspire to be remembered I need to make some changes starting today!

This can also can be an interesting exercise for a team to do, e.g. If we were going to disband today what would we want the company and our customers to say about us? What are they saying about us today? What actions do we need to put into place to bridge the gap?

Actions for Results:
Tips and Tools for Creating Your Leadership Legacy

• Remember, the leader you aspire to be remembered for tomorrow needs to become that leader today.

• What is your leadership brand today? Try asking some of your clients and colleagues.

• Who are your leadership mentors – the people whose lives you want to emulate? Think about why you chose them and the lessons to be learned.

• What leadership values and beliefs govern your behavior today? Are there any changes you need to make?

• What is your 5 year, 10 year, and next year's Leadership Vision?

“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.”

Bonnie Lieberman
Senior Vice President
& General Manager
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Leader's Legacy: Lead your Life … Don't Just Live It No matter what your title or role is, you are leaving a leadership legacy with those you work with and live with today. As a result of listening to this CD and completing the exercises in this workbook you'll be able to assess whether you are living the most meaningful life possible today so that the best part of you lives on.

EquiPro International, Ltd. Workbook & CD


Lynda McDermott

Lynda is honored to be one of over 570
Certified Speaking Professionals
in the United States

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