What will be your living legacy?

A recent presentation addressed a number of issues but essentially focused on a two-pronged approach to legacy: leadership and management


By Joe Serio

I was recently asked to speak about legacy before the director of a large criminal justice agency and his top brass at their annual Executive Leadership Conference.

In preparing for the presentation, I remembered a conversation I had a number of years ago with an administrator who was nearing retirement age. He said his legacy was one of the concerns on his mind. I got the distinct impression he wanted to start managing his legacy.

A couple of things struck me. First, it seems that a few years until retirement is not the best time to start "managing" one's legacy.

Second, legacy seems to be a by-product of a life lived in the daily practice of integrity and principles rather than something approximating a manipulation.

Third, I believe that one's legacy, ultimately, is largely decided by other people.

My presentation addressed a number of issues but essentially focused on a two-pronged approach to legacy: leadership and management.

In discussing leadership, I outlined the five prescriptions featured in The Leadership Challenge, a best-selling book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner: 1) Model the Way, 2) Inspire a Shared Vision, 3) Challenge the Process, 4) Enable Others to Act, and 5) Encourage the Heart.

In capable leadership hands, these components contribute to sparking the passion and enthusiasm of employees. They form the framework for brainstorming and creative problem solving. They can unlock the potential of future leaders and actually contribute to succession planning.

It is often said that we don't remember what people say as much as we remember how they made us feel. Leadership in this sense is making followers feel like they are operating in a safe environment and can achieve anything.

On the management side, I discussed the legacy of General Gennady Chebotaryov, former deputy chief of the Organized Crime Control Department of the Russian national police. I had the privilege of working with him for several years.

From a leadership perspective, Chebotaryov practiced the tenets developed by Kouzes and Posner. From the point of view of effective management, he was expert at living Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Chebotaryov was a strategic thinker who put first things first on a daily basis to ensure that he met his goals. He was highly skilled at the competencies of his job and always searched for win-win solutions to problems. He always began with the end in mind, which was one reason he excelled at managing crisis situations to a successful conclusion, including hostage negotiations and counter-terrorist operations.

It seems to me that when individuals do the right thing (leadership) and do things right (management), their legacy will take care of itself.

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