Will Your Leadership Legacy be About You, Or Those You Leave Behind?

Beth Miller |

your leadership legacy

If you were to retire from your job today, what would your leadership legacy be? Whether you spend a great deal of time focused on that legacy or not, the way people remember you has everything to do with your identity, behaviors, and your personal values. If you don’t spend time reflecting on what those values are and aligning your behaviors to your values, your leadership legacy will be determined by how you are perceived along your journey.

The Servant-Leader

When people identify as a servant-leader, they are far more likely to be concerned about their leadership legacy. This may seem contradictory, as a servant-leader consistently puts others first. However, that attitude is precisely what creates a strong legacy. A true legacy is not about awards and accolades for an individual. It is about leaving behind a strong team of individuals who are farther along in their careers.

It is because servant-leaders put others first that they often progress higher in an organization. They understand that a legacy is not solely about executing a career strategy, but instead, executing the mission and vision of the organization through the success of their entire team.

Employees often think highly of servant-leaders who value their achievements and successes. When a leader is genuine about coaching and mentoring their teams to reach their goals, it shows. Individuals are far more likely to rally in support of a manager or leader who has shown authentic interest in their success. When a servant-leader moves on, that individual will be remembered as someone who made the success of others a priority.

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The Me-First Leader

There are lots of leaders in business today who put themselves first. We all know the type. Their egos arrive to a meeting long before the individual actually walks through the door. When their team experiences success, they take all of the credit. These leaders may have a strong head for business – they may rack up awards and receive regular recognition for success, but when it comes to employees and team members, they often fall short.

Me-first leaders are not focused on the future. Instead, they are focused on the present. They are more concerned with hitting this month’s goals and receiving recognition than how they can positively impact the organization over the long term. Not all me-first leaders are terrible at employee development, however. In fact, many do take the time to identify future leaders and develop talent. However, they approach this development from the perspective of “What’s in it for me?” They want someone to take their place so that they can move up in the organization. This type of attitude is where these leaders fall short. A lasting legacy cannot be built on a platform of “me-first,” because once that leader leaves the company, their impact leaves with them.

Where Do You Fall on the Spectrum?

Not all leaders fall into these two extreme categories. Most leaders fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Where you fall depends upon your leadership style, the way in which you were coached throughout your career, and your own personal values.

If you want your leadership legacy to be impactful, you don’t necessarily have to be a servant-leader. However, you should have a clear understanding that it is the people you leave behind that will carry on your legacy. When you take the time to nurture talent and cultivate potential leaders, those individuals will carry on the values that you’ve instilled in them. Those values will last long after you receive your last award or accolade.

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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