All of us lead in some respect, as a big brother or sister, a boss, an advisor for a friend or as a parent. And all of us choose whom we will follow. We all participate in the shaping of our own future and produce some degree of inspiration or discouragement in the lives of others. Leadership occurs anytime one attempts to influence the behavior of an individual or group regardless of the reason. Although we may miss our chance to lead well, clearly none of us can avoid leadership altogether. We all influence others whether we are conscious of this fact, or not.
Each of us, therefore, leaves a legacy. Of all the challenges in life, I believe the challenges beneath the surface of our personal lives are those that will affect the legacy of our leadership.
A leader will inventory his learning posture frequently and invite others to “speak into” his life. A leader stops leading when he stops listening and growing. When a leader’s character is strong, people trust him, and they trust his ability to release their own potential. This not only gives followers hope for the future, but it promotes a strong belief also in themselves and their organization. Furthermore, a leader must live by his/her own convictions. He must inspire himself, trust himself, and then inspire others. A real leader (not in name only) will find ways to use his life’s experiences rather than be used by them. The leader also acquires a vision, sets a direction, and attracts people to come along side and join him.
Former Prime Minister of England, Margaret Thatcher once said, “Being in power is like being a lady. If you must tell people, you are, you aren’t.” If you see a disparity between who’s leading the meeting and who’s leading the people, then the person running the meeting is not the real leader. True leaders speak later, need only their own influence to get things done, and influence everyone in the room. A “healthy” leader makes sound decisions, admits his mistakes, and places what’s best for those following and the organization ahead of his/her personal agenda. When you choose the mantel of leadership, you lose the right to think about yourself.
The skill of leaving a legacy is the most difficult. Achievement comes to someone when he can do great things for himself. Success comes when the leader empowers followers to do great things with him. Significance comes when he develops others to do great things for him. But a legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him!
Allow me to finish with a life lesson I learned from some marvelous mentors. The only thing that walks back from the tomb with the mourners and refuses to be buried is the character of the person just buried. What a man/woman has been survives. It can never be buried.