Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

The Benefits of Creating a Leadership Legacy

 -  12/10/12

Leaving something behind for those who come later has significant organizational and individual value.

A classic conundrum asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Now, consider this question in an organizational context: If a leader walks out of the office each night, each year, and at the end of a brilliant career has compiled a record of heroic successes, yet leaves no long-term impact on others, did leadership occur?

As the question implies, legacy is a crucial component of leadership. A leader’s legacy is established by leaving something of enduring quality behind for the organization and its people. Effective leadership occurs when the leader strengthens others’ capacity to learn, to reflect and to extract meaning from their learning.

It’s not up to the CEO or top management alone to create a legacy; everyone has this opportunity based on his or her own experiences and insights. However, to do so requires a new consciousness and an intention to leave value. Learning leaders may need to take responsibility to design efforts to reframe the notion of legacy as something that is not only passed on at the end of a career, but that is passed along throughout a career. Consider these legacy-leaving activities that already take place in organizations:

• An employee leaves a workflow journal behind when taking a new job.
• A manager instills the importance of process improvement in her employee. When the employee is asked to lead a project team, she fosters the use of process improvement tools, techniques and perspective in the project team’s future work. The employee looks to her manager for ongoing guidance as she leads the team in this direction.
• A consultant revisits a client’s facility and finds the client has incorporated into the company’s culture change management practices which the consultant provided during his original engagement with the organization. His client reports both improvements in morale and performance that would not otherwise have been realized.

Tom (name changed to preserve his anonymity) was a senior vice president of HR at Hoechst Celanese, a global chemical company. He took the risk and opportunity to reveal to a group of high potentials a personal situation in which he had a mental breakdown due to the way he handled the stress and pressure of his job. The story he told was poignant and unforgettable, but the message even more important — “pay attention and be aware of your behavior and any anxiety that you experience. Mental health and the capacity for proper perspective is an essential leadership competency that is too often overlooked and underestimated.”

Article Keywords:   leadership development   leadership  


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