Living a Legacy

What does the word legacy mean to you? For some, it means following in the footsteps of your forefathers as in being a “legacy” at a college. If your parent went there, and you decide to go, then you become a “legacy”.

family legacy

For others, as the aging process sets in, it means “was this all worth it?” What am I leaving behind? More importantly, did my life matter to anyone?

I am not convinced people think legacy as much as they once did. It seems living in the fast-paced modern world has pushed us to do more, be more and somehow miss the journey. There is no denying I am part of the Boomer generation. By some accounts, that places me at odds with the anyone younger than 50. I respectfully disagree.

My wife and I are blessed to be the proud parents of 5; four boys and a girl. They are grown now and have families of their own, treating us to 7 grandchildren. When we gather as a family it is easy to see the legacy unfolding. I think about that a lot. What can I say and do today that will have an impact on those generations after me?

Throughout my life, I have chosen to be a perpetual learner. I love studying management and leadership theory. The more I read and learn about my chosen topics, the more convinced I am that there are timeless principles of leadership. To be timeless, something must not be subject to the changes in mindset with each new generation. Being a voice for a timeless subject helps create a legacy.

Leadership is just such a topic. Yes, we might change the terminologies we use, but the principles remain unchanged. I want to share with you my shortlist.

Key Principles – My Elite 8

Whether you are leading a team at work, at home with your family, or an organization in your community, I like these 8 leadership principles. I call them my “Elite 8”. They have proven time and again to be rock solid.

Always Be Honest –  In a world plagued with situational morality and dog-eat-dog competition, it is rare to find the totally honest business person or neighbor. Honesty, or lack thereof, is soon found out. There is nothing so valuable as a leader who has a reputation for honesty.

Leaders who are honest earn far greater respect; they are sought out, and they create loyalty in their spheres of influence.

Forgive and Forget –  People make mistakes, decide on poor choices, and sometimes just goof. As a leader, how do you handle those situations? Do you condemn and ridicule or can you forgive and forget? I’ve written about grace becoming one instrument in a leader’s toolbox. The ability to forgive and forget is the totality achieved with the ability to give grace.

Be Kind Hearted –  When you are dealing with people one-on-one and face-to-face, do you exhibit a personal warmth? Is there a kind heart that sparks that warmth that is palpable? This is a trait you can neither mask nor fake. Do you have the heart to be a leader?

In his book “The Heart of Leadership”, Mark Miller tells a story of a young businessman named Blake. Blake is struggling at work with his duties as a team leader. He seeks some counsel from a close family friend. I won’t tell all of the stories, but the core value comes down to this simple acrostic.

H.E.A.R.T.

The initials stand for:

  • Hunger for wisdom –  keep learning new and different things to improve yourself
  • Expect the best –  set a high standard and maintain your expectations for it
  • Accept responsibility – stop the blame game, take your ownership seriously
  • Respond with courage –  be bold with your decisions
  • Think others first –  be willing to be more of a servant rather than a boss

Keep Your Promises –  Expectations can make or break relationships. The promises we fulfill serve to grow trust, respect, and reliability. However, broken promises do the most harm. When you promise someone something then fail to deliver, there is a damaging break in the relationship. The next time a situation arises and you must make a promise, the person with whom you broke the last promise will be very skeptical.

Work Hard –  Every “overnight success” I have ever met or read about worked tirelessly to achieve their status. The equation is really that simple; work hard and achieve or don’t work and flounder.

Lessons from ants have been taught since time memorial. From the proverb instructing us:

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
provideth her meat in the summer,
and gathereth her food in the harvest”

Then again in Aesop’s fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, ants have appeared throughout our life stories (and on our dining tables!). (1)

Be Thankful – Giving thanks can do so much to lighten anyone’s load. To your work team, give them thanks and praise for the efforts they show. Give recognition when it is in your power to do so. Also, being thankful helps sustain the kind heart in #3. After all, how can you have a kind heart if you never recognize the good things that might be going on around you?

Research has linked gratitude with an increase in self-esteem, resiliency and overall life satisfaction. It can also help you build new friendships and strengthen the relationships you already have. “There are two processes at play here,” Acacia Parks, Ph.D, chief scientist at Happify, a website and mobile app that provides games and activities geared towards improving mental wellbeing, told CBS News. “The person expressing the gratitude is thinking about their gratitude more, so they themselves feel better and their gratitude is stronger. And it’s also good for the person receiving the gratitude because they feel appreciated and it makes them want to express the gratitude back.” (2)

Never Give Up –  Persistence usually wins the day. Similar to working hard, being willing and able to forge ahead when all things are not going your way signifies a leader. Turning back or giving up when the first sign of resistance occurs will never get you through. You must stay strong; persevere.

As Sir Winston Churchill said in 1941 (before he was “Sir”) –   “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” (3)

Love One Another – I find this principle to be the hardest. In our daily routines, it is easy to cross paths with people we find we just don’t like very much.

As a leader, you must seek to find ways to build love with those closest to you; the team, your tribe, your family, or your community.  The power of love can overcome the worst of conditions. Great achievements come from the love and passion for being together, working a cause, and knowing you are loved.

Summary

Remember, having principle-based leadership is like setting a deep and strong foundation. The principles you choose to guide you will shape the character and substance of what you decide to do. In addition, operating from a solid core set of guiding principles will create for you a reputation of integrity and trust.

Principle based leadership

CALL TO ACTION

If you are wondering about your current career situation, I am offering a free career satisfaction survey. This quick and easy tool can show you if it’s time to make a change.

 

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