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Your Leadership Legacy: What will they say?

Take three deep breaths…in through the nose, out through the mouth.

Now visualize your employer, colleagues and customers saying a few words about you because you’ve decided to move on to your next challenge. What will they say?

What will they say about your leadership? What do you want them to say? Why does it even matter?

If you lead people, you are automatically building a leadership legacy, whether you want it or not. It’s not just about how you excel at your profession, it’s also about the impact and impression you leave on other people - - your employer, employees, colleagues and customers. You want to leave a legacy where people speak your name in a positive light, even when you’re not in the room and think about you for opportunities that will take you to the next level.

Take a moment to reflect on the past week. Write down three words that describe how you made the people you lead feel. Do the same for whoever you report to and then, for your colleagues and customers. The words you wrote down likely reflect what you value in your leadership and relationships and what will shape your leadership legacy. Do the words you wrote reflect your intended outcome? If so, great. Keep improving what you’re doing and keep these words visible to help you stay aligned with what’s important to you. If not, you have some work to do.

Climbing the leadership ladder does not come with instructions on how to do the very thing that will make you an effective leader: building relationships that connect, inspire and motivate people to act. If you’re lucky, you have a mentor, coach or someone in your life who intentionally supports your growth and development and keeps you grounded and accountable. Leading people is an exercise in patience and flexibility, but if you do it “right”, your people will have your back, know their contributions are valued, and think twice before doing anything that jeopardizes the integrity of your relationship. These attributes embody a leadership legacy rooted in the core values of compassion, integrity and accountability and are the keys to building a healthy, diverse, positive and productive workplace culture and a legacy to be proud of. Here are a few ways to make them work for you.

Build a culture of compassion

Not long ago, effective leadership primarily meant inspiring an environment that created exhausted, stressed, burned out employees competing to be seen, heard and valued. But the “great resignation” has quickly taught us people would rather quit their job, than be subjected to those conditions. Compassionate leadership on the other hand has gotten a bad rap over the years. It’s getting better, but when some people think of leading with compassion, they think it just merely means being nice to people. That’s part of it, but there’s more to it. A leader who builds a culture of compassions allows everyone to leave the conversation with their dignity, integrity and wellbeing intact. They see, hear and value the people they depend on to make the organization, team or project successful. They let people know that they don’t just see them as objects that produce an outcome, but that they see them as humans and as an integral part of the organization’s success. Acknowledging, celebrating, and coaching instead of criticizing and demeaning are ways to lead with compassion. The Takeaway: Build a culture of compassion by being a leader with compassion.

Build a Culture of Integrity

Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is an important step to building a culture of integrity. Establishing yourself as a leader who keeps their word is imperative to building a team that can rely on you to do what’s right. Even when they may not agree with you, they’ll trust you, support you and be an ambassador for your decisions. This work takes intentional, consistent and frequent communication so that you create an environment where people feel comfortable to be open and honest to respectfully speak freely without fear of retaliation. The Takeaway: Build a culture of integrity, by modeling behavior that establishes you as a person who can be relied upon to do what’s right and be open to feedback.

Build a Culture of Accountability

You’re an expert in your field of work and are used to doing things on your own. But leadership requires a different mindset, even if you’re leading a team of one. According to the New York Times bestseller, The Oz Principle written by authors Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman, accountability is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results”. So, as a leader how do you build a culture of accountability within your organization? One way is to learn to delegate.

Learning to delegate is one of the hardest transitions for leaders, especially if you’re going from leading none to some. To build a culture of accountability, first openly demonstrate self-accountability. Then, trust that, given clear direction, your team will deliver quality results. It’s important for you to be the example. Make sure people see you start what you finish, produce professional high-quality results, and take ownership to quickly recover from mistakes. The Takeaway: Set the tone for accountability, demonstrate it and convey your expectation for the same.

Your leadership can literally change someone’s life

The power of your leadership is huge. From impacting someone’s livelihood to impacting the type of leader they may one day become, the way you decide to lead can literally change someone’s life. That’s why your leadership legacy matters.

Remember the words you wrote down earlier? Use them to level up. Create statements of intention to clarify the intentional impact you want your leadership to have on people. Finally, embrace what you value, practice what you intend and grow a leadership legacy you can be proud of. The Takeaway: Every leader will have a leadership legacy whether they want it or not; create a legacy you can be proud of.

What will they say?

This article was originally written by the author and published by Careers in Government. Click HERE to visit.

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