How Memorable Leaders Create Their Legacy 

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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Does Vision Make a Great Leader?

Many describe a great leader as one who has vision.

A leader who is able effortlessly to conceptualize what strategy and direction is required to meet the competitive and economic challenges of the day.

A leader who can integrate the various pieces of a complicated business puzzle in their mind and create a strategy of what has to be done to achieve success.

There is no question that visioning is an important ingredient of leadership, but it isn’t the characteristic that distinguishes the good leader from the bloody brilliant one.

It’s not what the leader THINKS that guides the organization through tumultuous times to survive and thrive, because thoughts and “brave ideas” are mere postulations of what SHOULD be done.

It’s what the leader DOES that is the deciding factor in whether or not the organization performs at it’s highest level.

The natural ability to execute will always in my view take the top position at the leadership table over visioning and ideation.

Does the leader who is remarkable in the skills of execution require an incredibly insightful vision to succeed?

Nirvana is leader who is both creative and possesses the execution DNA strand.

Breakaway businesses are created amidst this perfect storm. Leaders are, however, rarely good at both.

But success CAN be achieved without amazing visioning. A mediocre plan flawlessly executed can produce far more positive results than an ambitious plan poorly executed. That’s a fact.

So why all the fuss over the power of visioning in creating remarkable leaders?

“The vision” is definitely more sexy than the dirty, messy and inelegant task of getting stuff done in the trenches fighting internal politics and aggressive competitors that’s for sure.

And leadership pundits seem to be able to wrap their heads around ideation skills far more easily than trying to formularize the synchronized “pick and shovel” activities necessary to mobilize imperfect and biased human beings to deliver results.

The truth is (take it from someone who has been there) it is far easier to apply cognitive skills to the art of leadership than the practical operational skills necessary to transform the helium-filled plan into reality.

The application of cognition is orderly; leading implementation is anything but.

If you’re a leader looking to enhance your effectiveness, don’t fuss with getting more productivity from your mind, “get dirty” with your employees who are up to their asses in mud…

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