What Should Be the Legacy of a Successful Leader?

Legacies that matter are connected with people. A hundred years from now all that will matter is the people that you connected with in such a way that you added value and meaning to their lives. Political commentator Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind in others the conviction and will to carry on.” Ultimately, if your people can’t do it without you, you haven’t been successful in raising up other leaders.

We have all heard that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I also believe that when the teacher is ready, the student appears. There are people in your world who would be thrilled to learn from you—not just the person who will succeed you in your leadership position, but people in every area of your life.

I believe the greatest legacy a leader can leave is having developed other leaders. Develop them as widely and as deeply as you can. I’ve spent more than thirty years teaching leadership to leaders from every walk of life and nearly a hundred countries. My organizations have trained millions of leaders in nearly every country. In the last few years, I’ve begun to personally invest in coaches and speakers who are actively teaching to others the values and principles I embrace. And I’m investing deeply in a handful of leaders in my inner circle.

If you want to leave a legacy, invest in people, and encourage those you develop to pass on everything they learn from you to others who will do the same. People are what matter in this world—not money or fame or buildings or organizations or institutions. Only people.

Achievement comes to people who are able to do great things for themselves. Success comes when they lead followers to do great things for them. But a legacy is created only when leaders put their people into a position to do great things without them. The legacy of successful leaders lives on through the people they touch along the way. The only things you can change permanently are the hearts of the people you lead.

Adapted from Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

1 Comment

  1. […] A leader must be brave because they use their creativity and imagination to envision a future that doesn’t yet exist. They may face backlash or ridicule from their peers or a public that can’t see the possibilities that they are visualizing. Leaders must be willing to hold their ground while putting themselves on the line. Revealing a vision to the world with a commitment and conviction that compels and inspires people is a leader’s primary goal. However, after the vision is in place and the plan to see it through takes shape, a leader should strive to keep the vision alive for the next up and coming leaders in their organization. A leader needs to be investing themselves in their people. “A legacy is created only when leaders put their people into a position to do great things without them.” (4) […]

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