Coaching Tool 2: Legacy
One of my favorite questions to ask executives is: What do you want your legacy to be?
The really good executives respond with genuine modesty…. something like: “It’s not about me… it’s about the team” or “If I left tomorrow, things would be just fine without me.”
But I always dig deeper, and when I do, the truly extraordinary leaders make clear that they have not just considered my question. They use it as a compass to guide what they do every. single. day.
The thing is that these leaders aren’t busy talking about it. They are living it.
Extraordinary leaders get that legacy questions are not about what they do but how they do it.
The what will change, perhaps numerous times, over time, but the how will be passed on in values. The how is the imprint or impression you leave across generations of people.
Legacies based on how involve:
- demonstrating authentic care, compassion, and empathy for people by showing interest in their lives as fellow humans
- listening thoughtfully to ideas and opinions that are different and respectfully responding with an open mind after careful deliberation
- allowing growing pains without feeling the need to jump in and fix them prematurely
- mindfully managing personal reactions
- understanding that leaders earn respect through serving the team, going first or last when needed, and making tough decisions with honest vulnerability
- engaging in concentrated efforts to develop talent and looking for opportunities to elevate others without strings attached
- being persistently self-reflective and willing to apologize when appropriate
- being generous with time and attention
- willingness and ability to be tough even when it is hurts to do so
- creating inclusive and safe cultural norms
- actively setting limits on toxicity in the workplace
Legacy leaders deeply understand that it is about people in the end. The lasting impact of being a calm and respectful presence in the lives others has ripple effects without boundaries. It is too easy to measure success based on black and white data metrics that may bounce wildly depending on the day — leaving people feeling without a compass.
Extraordinary leaders retain an internal compass based on the legacy of how, and they recognize that regardless of the external metrics of the day, the ship will weather the storm with a solid sense of true north.