Does Your Leadership Legacy Have a Long Tail?


I know it’s hard to think about such lofty concepts as legacy these days.  So many business fires need immediate putting out or preventing.  Add to that the unhappy job of disciplining or laying off your people, and sometimes it’s hard to stay passionate about your own work.
Is it time to lift your eyes to a more inspiring horizon? You’ll be doing both yourself and all the people who work for you a favor that will last not only beyond today or this quarter, or even this job. It will take your influence into generations of people whom you’ll never meet.

What am I talking about? Significance.  There’s the significance that’s intrinsic to your own work and job description – the organizational responsibilities that you have to get the job done and to rally your people around the cause of helping you deliver. But there’s also the intangible significance that you have in your team members’ careers – which largely stems from helping them recognize the significance that they have in the work they do – and their own children’s potential for success.

This is also the source for your own long-term power and sustained energy as we continue to try to make sense of building a career in a crazy business environment.  Here’s how to build your leadership legacy long tail and stay inspired in your own career:

Recognize that your behavior is a role model for all your employees.   The way you manage your behaviors and moods at work teaches your people how to manage their own behaviors and moods at work.  As their boss, you’re their most important teacher and mentor, in an area that survey after survey reports as essential to top talent – the development of their own careers.  They’re learning how to be a manager by watching you be a manager.  How’re you doing along those lines?

Remember that how you treat your employees will influence how your employees will treat their children.  This is where your own legacy long tail gets really long – extending off the charts deep into a future you can’t even imagine.  If you mistreat your employees, they’ll go home and take it out on their kids, at the very least telling them that work is miserable and there’s no point in dreaming their own dreams.  But treat your people fairly, respecting their individual potential and talents, giving them every opportunity to shine – and they will take these wonderful, positive stories home.  Those children in turn will be inspired to succeed and seek out bosses who treat them as well as you treated their parents.  And they will take their own positive, empowered stories home to their children. And so your influence extends deep into generations.

Be intentional about the legacy you want to leave.  What exactly do you want your influence as a manager stand for? In other words, what leadership brand do you want to build? When people think of you – or talk about you – what words do you want to come to their minds?  Specifically, how do those words translate into actions and behaviors that you can implement now? This is your mission that rises above the day-to-day challenges of your job. This mission will keep you inspired to be greater than the daily, short-term demands. This is the mission that will build your career as you positively influence the lives of everyone who works with you.

0 thoughts on “Does Your Leadership Legacy Have a Long Tail?”

  1. Libby, The part about extending your leadership legacy onto children of those you lead was a fascinating “ah ha” moment for me. As leaders we seem to focus on those in the inner circle or those who we feel we have the greatest influence with, and do not think about the down stream effect of our actions. Thanks for the reminder!!!Brian

    • Having just this second gotten off the phone after interviewing an incredible 14-year-old girl with a non-profit that helps feed the hungry – you bet it’s important to be mindful of teaching our children about service. This is, if they’re not too busy teaching us!


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