Leaders and Legacy

by  Dr. Angela Bisignano  |  Leadership Development

When I was in my twenties, I heard a speaker discuss a great study that had been conducted. The results of the study continue to influence my life to this day. The study involved fifty people over the age of 90. They were all asked one question:

“If you had your life to do over again, what would you do differently?”

Wanting to know, I took out my pen and eagerly began writing, jotting down every word I heard the speaker say.

Three answers were prevalent among the study’s participants. None of which had to do with great personal accomplishments. What they were now considering at the end of their lives was something very different. If they had their lives to live again, they would:

  1. take more time to reflect
  2. take more risks
  3. leave something to be remembered by

Their responses are insightful when thinking about legacy and what is important to us. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines legacy as: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. So what can we learn from those who have gone before us?

Take Time to Reflect

Life is moving really fast for many leaders. Taking time out of our busy schedules long enough to reflect can be challenging. Yet, thinking about our values, aspirations, passions, and the people we lead and care about are very important when considering legacy. When I think about legacy, I envision what I can pass on that is of value to others.

If this is something that is important to you then schedule some time to contemplate your life. Begin by taking a mental inventory of your life. Some key domains to think about while contemplating legacy: relational, vocational, spiritual, and community.

Then ponder the following questions:

  • If today were your last day on earth, would you be satisfied with the leadership legacy you are leaving behind? Be honest with yourself.
  • Have you invested your time, energy and resources in the areas that matter most to you?
  • Are you satisfied with what has transpired given your leadership role and the opportunities you have had?
  • Are you content with the investment that you have made in the lives of people that you lead and those who matter most to you?

If you said “no” to any of these questions, what adjustments can you make? Write them down.

Take More Risks

Taking more risks in their lives topped the list for most. Chances are that if you are a leader, you have taken your share of risks. The more pertinent question regarding risks for you as a leader and your legacy might be: Are you taking the right risks? If you feel like there is more to your life than you are presently experiencing, then you may want to consider the following questions:

  • Have you taken many noteworthy risks in your life and leadership or do you have a tendency to play it safe?
  • Have the leadership risks you have taken moved you closer to your life, faith, or career goals or moved you further away?
  • Have you taken more risks based on the expectations of your organization and other people or because you wanted to take them?
  • Are the risks you are taking as a leader fueled more by courage or fear?

Leave Something to be Remembered by

A third predominant answer: If they had their lives to live over again they would leave something to be remembered by. This response directly speaks to life and leadership legacy.  Think about some of the great leaders who have gone before. What is it about their life, leadership, and legacy that resonate with you? Now is the time to think about what is important to you.

  • What do you want to pass on and leave behind when you are gone?
  • How do you want others to remember you?
  • If you have children, what will you leave behind in them? Will your life reflect a story they will want to tell their children?
  • What are you passing on to the people in your organization or faith community?
  • If you are married, what kind of spouse will you be remembered as?
  • Will you leave behind a contribution that makes this world a better place?
  • If faith is important to you what spiritual legacy will you leave behind?

You have the opportunity to impact generations to come with what you invest today. What are you doing today to ensure that you are leaving a legacy worth remembering? You hold the pen that is writing your life story; make it a good one.

What are you doing today to leave a great legacy for tomorrow?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By angela-bisignano
Angela Bisignano has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Ministry. She works in private practice in Southern California: counseling, coaching, and consulting. She is passionate about empowering people to embrace intentional and wholehearted living. Dr. Angela has written a book, Beautifully Gifted: Equipping Today’s Women for the High Calling of God. She writes, speaks, and facilitates workshops on topics  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Brent Sprinkle  |  24 Jan 2012  |  Reply

Well said Angela – another approach I like (ala Scrooge), take some time to think about, what will people say about you at your funeral…..then wake up and do something about it!

Angela Bisignano  |  24 Jan 2012  |  Reply

Thank you Brent. I think that is an excellent exercise. It is a great way to give you perspective on what’s really important.

Jon Mertz  |  24 Jan 2012  |  Reply

When we read these questions, it is so obvious the importance of them and how we answer each. Time then continues to click by, and we don’t act differently. Whether it is the need to make a living or just over-working in a haze of what may be important, we lose our bearings and ignore taking action on these three elements.

It comes down to recognizing the importance of our acting on the answers to these questions and carving out time each day to do something meaningfully.

Thanks, Angela!


Angela Bisignano  |  24 Jan 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for your comments Jon. It seems there are always things competing for our time, energy and focus in life. I agree with you, it comes down to recognizing the importance of answering and acting on the questions. That’s probably where adding the “reflection” component becomes really valuable.

Daniel Milstein  |  25 Jan 2012  |  Reply

That is true,Angela. As an author and business man, I can relate to how you said, “he results of the study continue to influence my life to this day”. I hope more people discover your blog because you really know what you’re talking about. Can’t wait to read more from you!

Angela Bisignano  |  25 Jan 2012  |  Reply

Thank you Daniel; kind of you to say.

Bari Bair  |  25 Jan 2012  |  Reply

I was called to write a book and I answered that call through the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit. I will leave behind me; hope for the future and a salvation message for the lost. The book is a book on Revelation viewed through a woman’s perspective. It is a book to guide people into the loving arms of a loving Savior. It is called “The Book of Revelation Through a Woman’s Eyes”. God gave me the vision, the words and the title. I was His pen, He was the author. How blessed I am to be His vessel. If I write nothing else, may many find peace through the pages of His book and find that God is in total control of ALL things. We serve a wonderful and loving Creator, and may we all complete the tasks which lay ahead, by a God who takes delight in His people. I know I am being blessed beyond anything this earthly mind could have conceived by being obedient to a calling that was only completed through the hand of God Almighty. Take that first step in your task, and walk out in faith. Know in your heart, if God called you, He will equip you, and bring it to fruition. It is ALL about HIM! God Bless!

Angela Bisignano  |  25 Jan 2012  |  Reply

Thank you Bari, I appreciate you taking your time to read the post. God bless you, too!

Join The Conversation