Leaving a Legacy or a Legend?

Work-Culture-in-US-Why-So-many-MeetingsI have been pondering this question for some time and I finally have a clear understanding of the topic. Are you a leader because you want to leave a “legend” or a “legacy”? This can be a highly controversial topic because many leaders really don’t get this. In fact, I might even venture to say that most leaders don’t get this.

In reality, the true measure of your success or lack of success won’t be determined until after you are gone. Months and years after your departure will reveal what kind of leader you were.

While we often associate these words with the process that takes place after our death, I believe it applies anytime we change roles, companies or even retirement.

One of two things will happen:

Either people will perceive you left a “legend” or a “legacy” after your tenure. Most leaders strive to be remembered but which is best for the company? It behooves you to really understand which you want to leave.

Let me explain what I mean:

If you leave a “legend”, you walk away a perceived “superstar” based on what you did and said. You will leave a pretty big gaping hole with your absence. Yes, you were awesome. The employees may miss you. The customers may even miss you. The industry is going to miss you.

For years, they’ll talk about how great you were. You’re a “legend”. It’s probably going to be easy for people to remember how great you are because in your absence, things just aren’t as good anymore? Why? Because the best part of the company was you and you took that with you.

On the other hand, when you leave a “legacy”, your leadership becomes so much less about you and more about the people serving with you. While you may be incredible on the stage, a top-notch communicator to customers, even the most creative mind your company has ever seen, you put all that secondary to developing others to become major players in those same areas.

You invest in your people so that they are incredible on stage and top-notch communicators to customers and creative assets to your company. When you live with the mindset of leaving a “legacy”, you make the company far better than anything you alone could do. Most importantly, when you leave a “legacy”, it’s possible that you might leave quietly and only a handful of people will even notice. As John Maxwell says, “It’s not about you, it’s about others.”

Yes, leaving a “legend” strokes our ego, but it doesn’t serve the continued growth of the company. On the other hand, leaving a “legacy” is healthy, bold and sustainable company building, it’s the art of multiplication and creating something that will last far beyond your tenure.

I have been personally convicted as I wrote this post because I’ve left a legend before. When you’re a good leader, it’s really easy to go after the low-hanging fruit and make a visible difference very quickly. The hard work comes from working behind the scenes, developing people to do what you do and do it even better.

Think about this for a bit. You may feel like you’re God’s gift to your company. When it comes to your people, they may feel you’re highly skilled, even gifted.

But in reality who cares. If you’re not investing into others and leaving a “legacy”, it doesn’t really make any difference in the long run.

If you would like to discuss this more fully and help your company grow in developing a “Legacy” check out our website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me at 630-454-4821.