I see most leaders at the finishing line of their career or tenure looking back over their journey to think about what they accomplished; what they will be remembered for.
Politicians are famous for this. They reflect on the programs, policies and legislation their administration introduced and hope something will resonate with historians and be remembered by their constituents.
CEO’s like to think about the strategic move they made that created an order of magnitude increase in shareholder value or that significantly changed the competitive landscape for their organization.
This is a traditional view of determining a leader’s legacy; it assesses their past achievements and concludes which were noteworthy enough to be remembered.
Memorable leaders don’t look back to determine what their legacy might be, they look forward and plan what they WANT it to be.
THEY, not the historians or external observers and analysts, control their outcome.
How do “the crazy ones” create their own legacy?
- They have a long term strategic view of where they want to go in the time they believe they have available.
They focus on a single issue that they believe represents the tipping point for their organization; that will make the difference between mediocrity and greatness.
- They avoid looking at short term tactics which, at best, define a more reactive approach that produces hit and miss results. Unforgettable memories are not created by tacticians who flit from here to there.
- They think about HOW they achieve results not just the result delivered. Often an amazing result is overshadowed (and eludes notice and mention) by a disruptive leadership style that offends an audience.
A legacy is always a double edged sword: the achievement coupled with the behaviors enveloping it. Separate one from the other and the legacy disappears.
- They are relentless in the pursuit of their goal; they are not dissuaded by opposition or setbacks.
When progress is impeded, they “take the punch” and continue with the tenacity and perseverance required to get their plan back on track.
- They gather followers; people that believe in and care about what they are trying to achieve.
Legacies are never realized by a single person; the leader supplies the vision but its achievement takes the “blood sweat and tears” of many others who are willing to throw their emotional energy behind it and see it to its conclusion.
- They are incredibly adept at tweaking the execution of their plan to respond to unforeseen events along the way, without disrupting the end game they pursue.
Their eye is always on the ultimate destination even though the journey to get there may require a number of alternate paths.
Remarkable leaders predetermine their own legacy; they look forward to create it rather than back to observe it.