What is Your Leadership Legacy?

Some time ago, the fine folks at Eagles Talent invited me to post a blog entry about the title question. Oddly, for a man who founded a company named the Leadership Difference, I had never thought much about my legacy as a leader. The whole notion of a person’s legacy is a bit dicey, for one thing. You can carefully craft an image for the entirety of your life by doing solid work and have it all undermined by one defining moment. Ask Bill Buckner, a very successful baseball player in the 1970s and 80s whose career 2700 hits was immediately forgotten when he booted a ground ball in game six of the 1986 World Series and was vilified by Boston Red Sox fans everywhere. A quick Google search of Buckner would lead you to believe that he played in only one game and cost his team the championship. As legacies go, that isn’t a great one, nor is it accurate for the man. So, rather than focus on how I may or may not be remembered, I will share with you the three guiding principles I strive to live by.

Positively affect the life of each person with whom I come in contact. This is my personal and professional mission statement. Even if it is only by sharing a smile or a kind word, I try to contribute to a better environment for the people I meet. The reason for this is more selfish than noble. I figure when it comes to the general attitude of mankind, behavior breeds behavior. I would prefer to live in a world where everyone is kind, happy, and positive. The only way I know to realize that dream is if I do what I can to make others that way. Maybe they will in turn do the same to the next person they meet, and in some kind of Butterfly Effect, the world will become a better place.

Do something even if it’s wrong, because it is easier to fix a mistake than a regret. This is a revised version of something my Dad used to say. I started working with him at the age of 12, installing heating and air conditioning systems in a small town. We worked together off and on until I graduated college. Often, he would catch me standing around and he would shout, “Do something even if it’s wrong.” Later, I added the tag line, “…because it is easier to fix a mistake than a regret.” Our lifetimes are short and precious. The longer we wait to pursue our joy, the shorter we have to experience it. So many people never begin the pursuit at all, and that is sad. If there is something you need to do or say, don’t wait too long or you may run out of time.

Cheer up, it’s gonna get worse. On the surface, my father’s favorite saying sounds exceptionally pessimistic. Perhaps that is the way he intended it, but I have found this sentiment to be an excellent mantra for mindfulness. The older I get, the more I value the present. I try to stay focused on my many blessings and not get caught up on past mistakes and future challenges. None of us are guaranteed anything more than the moment we now find ourselves in and to waste it being unhappy, resentful, or regretful is to squander the only really precious thing we have. So, regardless of the troubles I think I have, I always feel better when my Dad’s voice echoes in my head to remind me to “cheer up, it’s gonna get worse.”

I don’t know how I will be remembered. I would love to be considered a good person: aloving husband, father, and friend who had a positive impact on others. Ultimately, I can’t define my legacy — others do that. What I can do is work on today and let those three principles work for me.