Big L, small l, legacy is the long term outcome of leadership. There will be legacy. You’re better off shaping it.
This is not something leaders ask of themselves very often. In some cultures, it even sounds presumptuous. Or something just for CEOs and Big People. But we all leave a legacy, good or bad.
You could see leadership legacy in numerical terms: the market share increase, the share price increase, the number of acquisitions, or any other output of the machine. But it would be much better to see legacy in terms of place and space: what kind of organization has been left behind, what kind of place, what spaces. Is it a magnet? A cool place? A perfect machinery? Darwinian land? A knowledge worker sweatshop? An unmemorable territory? A middle-of-the-road-nothing-wrong-with-it place? What’s the story, anyway?
If you ask yourself these questions early enough in your leadership, small l or big L, you’ll have a chance to shape a particular legacy, small l, Big L.
Sometimes I wish leaders could have the equivalent of a near death experience, or out of body experience, so they could see the world left behind. Would you be pleased? Satisfied? Honoured? Proud? Embarrassed?
In fact, in the very short term, the idea still applies. What was my micro-legacy of today? A better place? A more elevated, humane, enhanced one? An unmemorable day in the lives of people around me?
Questions, questions. There should be more in leadership programmes. Or establish a kind of questions tax: for every question answered, there must be five new questions. Or so.
And the collective legacy question is: are we ending the day leaving this in a better place? But, forget the collective, stay in individual; otherwise I am elevating the confusion to a higher level.
So, what does it look like, so far?