A lesson in leadership legacy

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George H.W. Bush was asked “what do you think your legacy will be?”. In his typical humble way, the former president answered “That’s for others to decide”.

Yet, how can he not have thought about what others would remember when he was no longer in their lives? I’m certain he did, and that in some ways it provided a rudder to his leadership legacy (this isn’t a political statement by the way. I think we should admire and celebrate the lives of anyone, of any political persuasion, who has exemplified what leadership should be).

Don’t wait to think about this

You don’t have to wait until you are old to think about that. And you don’t have to leave this world to leave a positive impression (legacy). In fact, I wish you’d think about it now if you haven’t yet as the legacy you desire to leave behind can be a north star to guide how you lead others.

George H.W. Bush made people feel good. He was always looking to take care of others in the best way he could, even when it was hard and even though he was a flawed human being (like we all are). He stayed humble about his role in so many millions of people’s lives to the very end.

What will your legacy be? Do you want to be remembered as someone who made others feel good? If so, then consider doing more of the following:

Remember others: People will remember you if you remember something about them. Get to know things about them and use them in conversation to create a connection. Ask them about their hobbies, their family or their work, and you’ll be surprised about what that means for you and your relationship with them. They will remember you fondly.

Look for the good and call it out. What do you find compellingly wonderful about someone? Let them know what you notice. Our society and workplaces are hard wired to be critical, yet everyone has something good about them. You have to be present and observe people closely sometimes, but wonderful can always be found. It will mean a lot to them when you notice.

Support them when it’s needed. Everyone needs some extra help from time to time. Watch for a need and reach out when it’s needed. It will be returned in kind to you in some way when they remember how you helped them.

Express your gratitude for them. Everyone in our lives has something about them that makes us grateful that they are there. Let them know that you are grateful in your words and your actions. You’ll stand out and be remembered when you are no longer in someone’s life.

Your leadership legacy may well be the things you do and accomplish. But the chances are better that you will be remembered for the person you are and how you made others feel.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.