Your Leadership Heritage

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Isaac Newton said that in the 17th century, and the idea is even older than that. Other people have helped you become what you are today. They’re part of your heritage, your leadership heritage.

If you take the time to reflect on your leadership heritage, you will become a better leader. You will deepen your understanding of why you do things the way you do. You’ll be able to explain yourself better when others ask about your leadership choices.

Growing Up

Your parents gave you your first idea of what a leader could look like. They may not have ever said a word to you about their values, but you could tell their values from how they acted.

Other adults influenced you in your formative years, too. When I talk to people about the strong influences on them growing up, they almost always mention a teacher, a coach, or a pastor. Who were the people who formed your first ideas of leadership? What did you learn from them?

Your First Boss

Your first boss had a powerful impact on the leader you became. That’s because he or she gave you a mental model of what leadership looked like. Who were the first leaders you had, and how does the way you lead come from them?

Role Models

Role models are people we want to act like. Sometimes we choose role models for their entire style of leadership. Other times, we use an individual as a role model for a specific behavior or situation. Who were your role models? What did you learn from them? How have you become like them?

Classes and Books

Effective leaders are always working on improving. You probably take classes that will help you become a better leader. You read books that do the same thing. Which classes and which books have made the biggest impact on you? How do you lead differently because of what you learned?


In some ways, being a leader is a chain of experiments. You face a situation and its challenges. You act. Then you learn from what happened. What are the events in your life that changed the way you lead today?

Turn Your Leadership Heritage into a Story

Don’t just ask and answer all the questions, weave them into the story of your leadership heritage. Describe your life and how you learned the lessons that make you the leader you are today. Your story will help you understand your behavior.

Tell Your Story

You will get a lot of value from just creating your leadership heritage story. But you can multiply the value by sharing it with your team members. Sharing your story is the transparency that is part of great leadership. Telling your story to your team members will help them understand your values and purpose, and why you do things the way you do.

Bottom Line

Analyzing your leadership heritage and creating your leadership story will help you understand why you lead the way you do today. You will also see areas where you want to improve, strengths you want to develop, and weaknesses you want to make irrelevant. That’s good. But sharing your story with your teammates is one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader. It’s scary, but it’s worth doing.

Additional Resource

From Chris Edmonds: What is your Leadership Point of View?

"The 'leadership point of view' process was created more than ten years ago by Ken & Margie Blanchard when they designed their course for the Blanchard co-sponsored Master of Science in Executive Leadership program at the University of San Diego. Margie describes one’s leadership point of view as your personal 'elevator pitch' – it describes your own journey, your values, your goals and your expectations."

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