THE LEGACY OF GREAT LEADERS
WRITTEN BY: LERE BAALE
As African’s corporations continue to reinvent themselves, leaders face defining moments. Many are incumbents waiting for retirement. Others are new in their leadership capacity and seek to make an immediate difference, while there are those that would rather observe and play it safe. How leaders handle their defining moments will define the future of their organizations and new opportunities for their colleagues. It will define their legacy.
At a time in Africa when leaders are focusing on survival and reinvention, they should also be paying attention to their legacy. Not to promote themselves, but to have a positive impact on the whole organization and community. What is your leadership agenda? Does it account for the needs of others and what is most important for the advancement of our nation, state, LGA, organization and its people?
Today more than ever, true Leadership requires more than just revenue, profitability, share price and market cap focus. Leaders need to inspire their employees, customers, ecosystem and influencers and combine the business perspective with the higher purpose of the organization. Brands and companies have to represent more than just numbers and economic achievements. And so do Leaders. In most cases, many leaders do not think along this line until their times are over and alas they have wasted golden opportunity to make real impact. Every leader has defining moment they could use to craft a great memory of who they are in the hearts of the people.
When we observe the state of leadership at various levels in Africa, we see a significant room for improvement. Our current leaders need to actively inspire their followers to leave leadership legacy that would transform leadership at every level to create a better culture of excellence and smooth succession. Here, we would define Legacy as a gift or a bequest, that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one person to another. The legacy of great leaders here would cover a leadership best practice, gift or a bequest, that is handed down, endowed or conveyed from one leader to others.
Asking the question about legacy brings forward a central observation: leadership is not solely about producing results. Success in leadership is not measured only in numbers. Being a leader brings with it a responsibility to do something of significance that makes families, communities, work organizations, nations, the environment, and the world better places than they are today.
By asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we plant the seeds for living our lives as if we matter. By living each day as if we matter, we offer up our own unique legacy. By offering up our own unique legacy, we make the world we inhabit a better place than we found it.
Are you on this planet to do something or are you here just for something to do? If you’re on this planet to do something, then what is it? What difference will you make? What will be your leadership legacy?
Leadership isn’t solely about results.
Success in leadership isn’t measured only in numbers. Being a leader brings with it a responsibility to do something of significance that makes families, communities, work organizations, nations, the environment and the world better places than they are today.
The purpose of leaders is to mobilize others to serve a purpose. And if you’re here to serve a purpose, the purpose comes first. You’ll have to make sacrifices in service of that purpose. In this age of reality shows like Survivor, The Apprentice and The Amazing Race, it might appear to some that success is winner-take-all and at all costs. But that’s not true.
When people talk about leadership, they often use the word passion. And when we think of passion, we tend to think of emotions such as enthusiasm, zeal, energy, exuberance and intensity. Well, all those attributions might be true, but if you look up the word passion in any dictionary that includes origins you’ll see that it comes from the Latin word for suffering.
Passion is suffering!
A passionate person is someone who suffers and a compassionate person is someone who suffers with and shares the suffering of others — and wants to take action to alleviate this condition. Nearly every act of leadership requires suffering — and often for the leader a choice between one’s personal success and safety, and the greater welfare of others. Nothing great comes without costs.
Leadership is hard work.
At times we’ll suffer, and those we love and cherish will suffer, if only because of the tradeoffs we have to make between our own career interests and those of the greater good. If you want to be a leader, you must be willing to pay a price. By sacrificing, you demonstrate that you’re not in it for yourself. That sends the message, loud and clear, that you have the best interests of others at heart.
The most significant contributions leaders make aren’t to today’s bottom line but to long-term development of individuals and institutions that adapt, prosper and grow. People should never take on the job of leadership if they’re unwilling to see beyond their own needs. If they do, they’ll ultimately fail.
We’ll all be remembered for something.
The question is, for what? What will others say about you when you’re no longer around? Each of us lives on in the memories we create, in the systems and practices we set in place (or don’t), and in the lives we touch. We guarantee that what people will say about you won’ t be about what you’ve achieved for yourself, but what you’ve achieved for others. Not how big a campfire you built, but how
None of us likes to hear the constant screeching of harpies who have only foul things to say. We close our ears to constant complainers who are predictable in their whining. At the same time, we never benefit from, nor truly believe, the sycophants whose flattery is obviously aimed at gaining favor. To stay honest with ourselves, what we really need are “loving critics” — people who care deeply enough about us to give us honest feedback about how we’re doing.
The higher up you go on the corporate ladder, the less likely it is that leaders will ask for feedback about their performance. Leaders want to know how others are doing, but rarely do they ask how they’re doing themselves. Senior executives are quite happy to prescribe 360-degree feedback for others — it’s the rage these days. But when it comes to getting feedback, it’s not for them. And if they’re getting it, that’s probably because an outside consultant or coach told them they should be getting it, not because they took the initiative to ask.
Think about this for a moment.
From a behavioral perspective, credibility, which is at the foundation of leadership, is about doing what you say you’ll do. But how can you do what you say if you don’t know how you’re doing? If you never ask for feedback on your behavior and on how well your behavior affects how others are doing, how can you really expect to align your words and actions over the long haul?
There’s solid evidence that the best leaders are highly attuned to what’s going on inside themselves as they’re leading and to what’s going on in others. They’re very self-aware and they’re very socially aware. They can tell in short order whether they’ve done something that has enabled someone to perform simple smart at a higher level or whether they’ve sent motivation heading south.
All leaders want to have a positive impact on performance. It’s part of their legacy. The only way they can know if they’re having the desired impact is to get regular feedback on how they’re doing. Leaders need more loving critics.
The reason that leaders aren’t eager to ask for feedback is that they’re afraid of feeling exposed — exposed as not being perfect, as not knowing everything, as not being as good at leadership as they should be, as not being up to the task. But if you’re a leader, you’re already exposed. You’re effectively dancing naked on the table, so there’s no use pretending you’re wearing clothes.
The better strategy is to accept the importance of seeking feedback about our performance. Learning to be a better leader requires great self-awareness and it requires making ourselves vulnerable. Make sure you have processes for getting regular feedback.
Leaders Should Want to Be Liked.
Lasting success depends on whether we like our leaders. It’s only logical, then, that all leaders should like to be liked. But leaders often say, “I don’t care if people like me. I just want them to respect me.” Get real! That statement is utter nonsense — contrary to everything we know about effective leadership.
Think about it for a moment. Is this a binary choice? Are we restricted to either liking or respecting someone? Can’t we have both? Can’t we both like and respect a person?
The leaders people want to follow are the ones for whom they have genuine affection. Love is not too strong a word to use for how the best leaders feel about their constituents and how their constituents feel about them. If you can’t have both liking and respect, then you should choose liking over respect.
Of course, some leaders worry that if they get them for poor performance or holding them accountable for living up to high standards. A tough truth about leading, however — and one that doesn’t get talked about enough — is that sometimes you hurt others and sometimes you get hurt. You can’t hit the delete key and eliminate those times from your job. You can’t delegate them to others. They come with the territory.
That truth should not deter us from wanting to be liked. Being motivated to have others like us will result in more empowering actions on our part than just wanting to be respected. Being motivated to want others to like us will make us more concerned about them than we are about ourselves.
And here’s a final piece of advice. If you have people working for you in leadership roles who truly don’t care if other people don’t like them, then fire them. They may not like you, but everyone else will.
The opportunity is NOW for leaders to discover their legacy at during a time of renewal and reinvention. Legacy is a critical success factors for leadership. It always has been. Unfortunately, leaders forgot the value of humility and humanity. This is where the legacy process begins!
Leaders must remember that legacy building begins the moment one assumes a leadership role. Leadership is about being accountable for those around you and continuously thinking about ways to inspire and create new possibilities for others. Most leaders don’t genuinely think about what is on the minds of their employees and how they can help make a difference.
Leaders must commit themselves to a cultural promise in order to define their legacy. Why? Because the challenge that most are faced with requires focusing on others, much more than just themselves. What is your legacy? How would others define it? What actions will you take and encourage others to make after reading this?
Legacies aren’t the result of wishful thinking. They’re the result of determined doing. The legacy you leave is the life you lead. We leave our legacies daily.
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