I have a friend who I think is pretty neat. He’s always got a smile on his face, laughs easily, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Kids love him. He’s a committed husband and Dad, as well as a humble man of faith. He makes learning new things fun, even when they’re challenging. He’s got a servant’s heart, yet is a strong leader, and he volunteers his time to his community and neighbors.
During a recent weekend trip with this friend and some others, I realized that everyone who knows him holds him in high regard. I’ve often wondered what people will say about me when I’m gone. (Strange, I know – but it’s part of being intentional about the legacy I want to leave.) It became apparent that my friend has been building his legacy for years already, and it’s a strong and solid one!
When it comes right down to it, though, haven’t we all?
The path we follow through this world intersects with others’ along the way. We make an imprint upon everyone we meet, no matter how large or small. When we hold a door open for someone else or send a friend a card for no reason, we are touching someone else’s life. It may not be the same impact as when you rescue someone from a burning building or help a child gain confidence, but we can’t go through life without affecting those around us.
And sometimes, it’s the small actions that have the biggest effect. Just plain being there when someone needs a friend, putting yourself in their shoes for a time, sharing simple words of encouragement and understanding – it all adds up to the legacy we leave.
What legacy are you leaving as a person and a leader? Are you being intentional about it, or just letting it develop over time based on random acts and decisions you make? Better yet, does everyone you know hold you in high regard or are there relationships that need mending?
As leaders, we need to be aware of those around us, but more than that, we need to be aware of the effect we have on them by our actions and our inaction.
To become a leader with a legacy you can be proud of, here are a few action steps to point you in the right direction.
- Imagine listening in at your own funeral. What do you want to hear people remember most about you? And what did you inspire people to aspire to? That’s going to become your goal.
- Assess where you stand in relation to that goal now. If you need help with this, ask a trusted friend or mentor.
- Identify what skills, characteristics and habits you need to start establishing now to more clearly achieve that goal.
- Begin a program of self-improvement to better incorporate those behaviors into your life.
- Periodically reassess both the goal and where you stand in relation to it.
We are works in progress until we die. Unfortunately, for most of us, we have no idea whether today’s the last day or if we have another year, 20 years or 50 years. Yet, a legacy waits for no one. We’re making one right now, whether we’re intentional about it or not. Is it something we can be proud of, or does it still need work?