Your leadership legacy is the culmination of every single interaction you have with others. Becoming intentional about your leadership legacy is perhaps the most important mindset shift you need to make as a leader. However, most leaders don’t spend any time thinking about it, or they misunderstand what it really means.
The truth is, whether you’re intentional about your leadership legacy or not, you ARE impacting people through every single interaction. So, get out of your head, into your heart and let’s amplify your leadership legacy
Hey, it’s Julie and welcome to the Corporate Yogi podcast.
Today we’re going to talk about an important mindset shift you will undergo as a leader. We often think about all the skills you need to develop as a leader, and how to be inspirational, and be a vision caster, and what you need to do logistically with the team to keep them engaged and happy.
However, this one aspect of the leadership mindset is critical, and most leaders skip right over this and don’t even think about it. I’m talking about your leadership legacy. And that is exactly what you’re going to learn about today.
So here’s a look at what you’re going to learn today:
1) First, I’m going to explain exactly what Leadership legacy is
2) In the 2nd segment I’ll explain why it is so important
3) In the 3rd segment I’ll explain the 4 step process to create it.
4: and in the 4th segment I’ll share key tips for maintaining a powerful leadership legacy. So get out of your head and into your heart and let’s dive right in shall we.
As I said in the intro, your leadership legacy is perhaps the most important mindset shift you need to make, yet most people don’t spend any time thinking about it, or they misunderstand what it really means.
When I mention leadership legacy, what I really mean is IMPACT. What is your impact on others as a leader? Here’s a definition: Your leadership legacy is the culmination of every single interaction you have with others.
You see, most people make the mistake of thinking of legacy as what we leave behind after we’re gone, or how people will remember us. What will be dedicated to us after we’re gone? A park bench? A hospital wing, a scholarship or bursary?
Or you might think about legacy as, how many people come to your funeral to pay tribute to you? What will your obituary say? A few years ago, when we had my Dad’s funeral, the church was packed and the admin staff told us they’d never seen so many people at a funeral there before. My dad had impacted many people over the years. He had a band, and they played many events, including many weddings and other significant events over the years, so he had a big effect on a lot of people and was tied to many of their significant family memories. So his music, his wine making, and the fact that he lived his whole life in the small town where he was born, these all contributed to his legacy.
And all these traditional aspects of our impact on others, and how we’re remembered, these are all legacy, absolutely, 100%. But, this is a very narrow-sighted way of thinking about our leadership. We have to understand that legacy is so much more than that. It’s more than just how we are remembered after we’re gone. It’s about how we make people feel. It’s about what we teach them. It’s about how we treat them in each and every interaction that we have. Your leadership legacy is the culmination of every single interaction you have with people.
The truth is, whether you are thinking about your leadership legacy or not, you ARE impacting people through every single interaction you have with them. Like it or not, this is the truth. So you might as well get really conscious and intentional to make sure you’re having a positive impact. Here’s a little story to show you what I mean. Early on in my career I worked for a VP who established a leadership legacy…. Accidentally. Let’s call him John. Now John was a brilliant leader, really strategic, and had a lot of great ideas, but that’s not what he became known for. Oh no. He became known as the font police who wouldn’t allow anyone to use the font Comic Sans MS. Was it intentional? No. Was it real and sticky, oh yeah. And it all happened so innocently. Someone randomly created a sign for the office using font, Comic Sans MS, John saw it and made some passing comment about not liking that font for office signage because it just isn’t professional. Well, that turned into an official edict, and when someone passed the story along, it started as, John doesn’t like that font, then John has banned that font, then you’ll get fired if John catches you using that font. Sigh. And so it was, John became the font police, that was his leadership legacy. The moral of the story- if you’re not intentional about what you want your leadership legacy to be, then it WILL be created for you, and likely about something you don’t want it to. Don’t be like John, don’t go down in history as the font police, when there are so any more significant things to be known for.
You have a massive opportunity every single day, through every single interaction you have with others. Who do you choose to be? What kind of impact do you want to have? When we start to think about legacy in this way, it really helps us understand and boost our confidence to realize exactly how powerful we really are. A CEO that I coached once articulated this really well to me. He said that because of his role, people just naturally looked to him for reassurance about the company and how they were doing, and it wasn’t just in formal meetings or emails he sent out, those intentional “teachable moments”, it was in everything he did, said, wore, reacted to, it was in what he wore, and how he spoke. He said the moment I step off that elevator in the morning, I am ON, and people are looking to me for data and information.
Sometimes we mistakenly think people are only learning from us during the teachable moments, BUT, the truth is, they are learning all the time.
I want to share a story about someone’s leadership legacy on me.
It was a leader that I had, years ago. And in the short time I worked for him, he had such a massive impact on me, and his actions still resonate with me today. I feel like this was one of the first times in my career that I had a manager who really made the effort to appreciate, and value me. He did many things to stand up for me, and support me and help promote my work. Today I’ll share just one simple one that he did. At our annual shareholder meeting, he made the effort to introduce me to as many of the attendees, especially investors as possible. And it may have seemed like a little thing, but for me this was massive. And it wasn’t just what he did, it was HOW he did it, I remember he would introduce me and say, have you met Julie Zuzek, who is handling our corporate communications, and helped us complete the annual report. And he would step off to the side, extend his two arms and motion with his hands to present me to said investor, so I could shake their hands and spark up a conversation. To be fully honest, I remember feeling a little embarrassed in that moment, and remember that saboteur voice sparking up to say, “Why is he making such a big deal about me” I remember feeling a little bit awkward, but really it was just new. I had never, in all my years of working had someone treat me like that, and make me feel special, and important, like I mattered, and I was significant. It was a small thing, but for me it was massive. I will never, ever forget how he made me feel that day, and for all the time that I worked with him. And this is something I not only carry with me as a memory of how I felt, I remember the importance of how easy it is to make other people feel seen and heard. It doesn’t matter how senior they are or what their title is,but introducing them and making them feel important is so significant. This is one of the main reasons why I love introducing people to leadership legacy. So often leaders come to me and want to know how they can get their employees to work harder, to care more, to be more engaged. And the instant association that is often made, is directly to money and perks, how can we incentivize them, what can we give them. A bonus? A gift card? And yeah, money can seem like an enticing and powerful motivator, but it’s not the MOST important motivator. The London school of economics did a study proving that money is in fact NOT the #1 motivator of people, and in some instances, money can actually demotivate people. WHAT? Yes. Money can actually demotivate people. The key to really reach an employee and get them motivated, is to make them feel seen and heard, make them feel valued and apricated. You have to access their emotions and make them feel special. This is why, almost 20 years later I remember this single incident at the AGM, when my boss introduced me to a bunch of powerful people and made ME feel special. I will never, ever forget how he made me feel that day. And more importantly, I will never forget that I easily have access to that kind of power to make people feel special, valued and appreciated. That, is impact, that is leadership legacy.
So now that you understand exactly how important it is to have a powerful leadership legacy, I want to share my 4 step process to create one.
When I do this process with my clients, we usually do this over a couple of different sessions to make sure they really have clarity over what they are accomplishing, and I walk them through a series of questions, to help them be reflective.
Step 1 – recognize who has impacted you and how they’ve impacted you. This is where we look to the past to see which leaders and what actions have impacted you. This might be a boss, a coach, a friend or family member. It’s typically someone older and wiser than you, and we reflect on what they did to really teach you and how their leadership is alive and well in you today. This could be as simple as a technique for how you run meetings, how they helped you become a more engaging speaker, or something social like taking you for lunch on your anniversary each year. These positive actions, traditions, and values, are all alive within you today, because of how you were impacted by this leader.
Step 2 – know who you are and who you want to grow into. The process of leadership legacy is not about cherry picking leadership traits from the uber successful. It’s common practice for people to tell me they want to be a leader just like steve jobs or elon musk. And while I don’t question that both these gentlemen had a massive impact in the business community, they overindexed on external success, and from my understanding, lack internal success and power. So rather than aspiring to be like people you don’t know. Stick with the up close and personal leaders who actually taught you real lessons, based on your regular interactions with them.
Step 3 – get clear on how you want to impact people. When creating your leadership legacy, you don’t want to be all things to all people. Think of it as creating a brand, you want to be known for something specifically and go one inch wide and one mile deep. In marketing we often say, when you try to reach everyone, you reach no one. So be clear on what aspects of your leadership you want people to remember you for. Is it innovative ideas, being inclusive, being strategic, being a truthteller, taking big risks, admitting when you’re wrong, giving tough feedback.
Step 4 – Be consistent in how you show up. Once you have clarity on how you want to impact people, then it’s time to be consistent and deliver on that commitment. We often define a brand as the expectation of an experience, and that’s really what you’re doing with your leadership legacy, you are a personal brand, and you’re delivering a consistent experience. It’s like that saying, people may forget what you said, but they will never ever forget how you made them feel.
Ok let’s recap those 4 steps to create your leadership legacy:
Step 1 – recognize who has impacted you and how they’ve impacted you.
Step 2 – know who you are and who you want to grow into.
Step 3 – get clear on how you want to impact people.
Step 4 – Be consistent in how you show up.
Now I want to share a few tips for maintaining a powerful leadership legacy
Tip #1: Remember that every interaction is an opportunity to deliver and strengthen your leadership legacy. Every conversation, presentation, every piece of feedback you deliver, every meeting and email. You are constantly impacting people and teaching them, so be intentional about what you want to teach. Don’t turn into the font police by default.
Tip #2: Regularly gauge and measure your impact on others. Don’t make assumptions about how you are impacting others. Get feedback from people on what type of impact you are having. And don’t just wait for exit interviews, when people leave the company, quite frankly that is just too late. Do it on an ongoing basis and make sure you’re constantly looking to measure your impact on others.
And Tip #3: Acknowledge and thank others for their leadership legacy. So often we make the mistake of thinking people who are older, more experienced and more senior that we are have life all figured out and don’t need to receive our appreciation or acknowledgement. WRONG. Have you heard the saying, it’s loney at the the top? Well, this is part of it. People just assume you know it all and have it all figured out and you no longer struggle with self-doubt or criticism. I’m here to remind you that everyone struggles with Saboteurs at every level of their career. Another level, another devil. So, the best way to keep your leadership legacy top of mind is to remember who has impacted you in the past and thank them for what they’ve taught you. Remind them of how their leadership is alive and thriving inside of you today. This can be as short and sweet as sending them a quick email as a thank you, or taking them for lunch. Just remember, don’t tack on the thank you at the end of a different communication or interaction, initiate the interaction solely for the purpose of thanking them, and asking for nothing in return. Trust me, they will be so glad you did.
OK let’s recap those 3 tips to build out your leadership legacy
Tip #1: Remember that every interaction is an opportunity to deliver and strengthen your leadership legacy.
Tip #2: Regularly gauge and measure your impact on others. Ask for feedback.
And Tip #3: Acknowledge and thank others for their leadership legacy.
OK it’s time to start wrapping up this episode on leadership legacy
Remember that your leadership legacy is the culmination of every single interaction you have with people. Don’t leave it to chance and become the font police, be intentional about it and make sure you are remembered for something significant. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about leadership legacy and you invest in learning about your own. I would love you to help me extend my legacy and share this episode with a colleague who would benefit from creating their legacy or use it as a chance to thank someone for their incredible impact they’ve had on you. And if you’d like to chat with me about your creating leadership legacy, you can contact or book a consult with me on my website, to find out more about my 1:1 coaching: head over to thecorporateyogi.com
Oh and stay tuned in December for details on how you can access my annual Goal setting program to set goals for the coming year. Yes, it is THAT time of the year already. Thanks for tuning in and continuing to support this podcast. I really do appreciate you, and I hope you take the time to establish your leadership legacy, because like it or not, you are having a massive impact on people each and every day, let’s make sure your legacy reflects your true potential and your actual greatness.