By Doug Upchurch
April 24, 2017
We’ve all heard the adage touting the importance for leaders to “walk your talk.” Although the term can be overused (and definitely under-delivered), it speaks to the credibility professionals can achieve by leading authentically, by their own example.
Building on this idea is “living your leadership legacy,” a new notion that leaders should consider equally important. The phrase represents the concept that you don’t have to wait until you’ve left an organization before imparting the kinds of things that are important to you.
All leaders make results happen through their unique mix of attention and preferences in the following areas:
- Results-focused leadership: commits to processes and gets things done
- Visionary-focused leadership: sees all the possibilities and has creative foresight
- Relationship-focused leadership: creates a community and cultivates collaboration
- Centered-focused leadership: models integrity, self-awareness and personal values
Here are three helpful tips to help you live your leadership legacy.
Consider how you get results.
To uncover whether your current leadership reality is aligned with your desired legacy, use a simple reflection and comparison exercise.
Using the inner ring of this grid, take note of the percentage of time you currently spend in each of the four leadership areas. Then, in the outer ring, take note of the percentage of time you’d like your focus to be in each area.
Notice the differences between the two rings. What are you doing now that isn’t aligned with what you want to be known for? What are you not doing now that you need to do to leave the legacy that’s important to you?
To bridge the gap between your leadership reality and your desired future, create a measurable goal for each section. For instance, if you currently only spend 10 percent of your time on relationships, but that area is actually very important to you, what could you change in the way you communicate with your team to make them feel they are important to you?
One goal could be that in every third email you send your team, you highlight noteworthy accomplishments of team members. Or, maybe you set a goal of spending 15 more minutes in the break room every day when you get your morning coffee to learn more about your team members’ personal lives.
No matter what you want to change, the goals you set must be individualized to your style and what you want to be known for.
Walk in your followers’ shoes.
Singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson once said, “Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.” It is just as important for leaders to understand their impact on others as it is for them to understand themselves.
To find out how your leadership style is perceived by those you lead, you must ask them, even if you know it will be difficult for you to hear. Consider using a 360-degree feedback tool to encourage your team to deliver the unvarnished truth in a way that feels safe – and helps you build on your current style so you can more fully address the needs of your team.
Make living your legacy a priority.
As leaders move through their careers, they must remember to make time for their own personal development. Leaders who want to live their legacy must identify the type of impact they’ve had so far, the kind of impact they want to have when they leave their careers and what they need to do differently on a daily basis to achieve that goal.
This is where executive-level coaching can be invaluable. Finding and working with an experienced coach can help you raise your vision from the short term to the finish line and help you plot exactly how you are going to get there.
Each day poses a new opportunity for leaders to make a conscious effort to connect who they are, how they lead, and what their legacy is and will be. Use a combination of leadership exercises, feedback and coaching to do just that – and keep doing it. Building your leadership legacy is a life’s work, implemented daily.
So, what will you be remembered for?