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Leaving a Leadership Legacy

By Orrin Woodward

What does it mean to leave a legacy?

One of the definitions is defined as something handed down from an ancestor, predecessor or from the past.

Leaving a legacy then, means to pay forward into the next generation, the life principles that made a difference in one’s life.

If you learned financial principles that made a difference, then share them with as many other people as possible.

If you learned family principles that helped in raising your family, then share them, leaving a legacy, imparting truth into others lives.

In life, there are many areas to improve, a great start would be the 8 F’s:

  1. Faith
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Finances
  5. Fitness
  6. Fun
  7. Following
  8. Freedom

These are all areas where truth can be imparted to others, leaving a legacy for them. A legacy is a lifetime gift, offered with no strings attached, in the hope of making a difference in others, even when your earthly life is over.

What is a Worthy Legacy?

Let’s review the potential legacies, determining what type is the best legacy to give to the next generation.

The first to review is monetary gifts. Isn’t that a good legacy? Money is certainly a legacy, but the problem with money, is that the giver will never know how the money was used.

Without financial intelligence, money is fleeting, and, even if it last, money can be used to further choices harmful to to the person receiving it.

The story of the prodigal spender, blowing his gifted fortune on selfish endeavors, ruining himself by the gift that he could not handle, isn’t surprising news.

But there is another, potentially even more destructive use of monetary legacies.

The large trust funds, from the billionaire founders of large companies – Rockefeller’s, Carnegie’s, Ford’s, etc, who started trust funds with specific ideas for their use, but, over time, administrators and bureaucrats, gained control of the money. Instead of supporting the founders mission, they converted the money to support their pet social programs, many times, in direct opposition to the founders beliefs.

In other words, the founders money, has been turned against themselves, supporting principles and beliefs, that conflict with the principles that helped the founder succeed in the first place. How ironic is that?

Money is a very poor legacy, since the giver never knows who will be spending it in longterm, or upon what it will be spent.

What about fame? Aren’t they worthy legacies? Fame is the most fleeting of legacies.

Even while living, people can go from the penthouse to the outhouse, displaying the fickle nature of people, leaving fame a tenuous legacy. But even worse, what good is fame, without principles?

How many examples do we need of famous actors, musicians, sports starts, or politicians, whose sons and daughters, standing on the brittle foundation of fame, crashed the family legacy into the ground.

Fame isn’t an object worth pursuing personally, let alone, leaving to posterity. Instead of seeking fame, seek excellence, and, if fame comes along with it, so be it. What can sons and daughters do with their parents fame? Not much, in the long run.

If, in the pursuit of fame, the children were neglected, the legacy of fame will fade, leaving another example, that excellence must be taught and caught. Fame, may be included, along with the principles of excellence, but shouldn’t be the main focus of the legacy given to the next generation.

Neither fame nor fortune will leave a lasting legacy.

What about power? Certainly, the powerful can leave behind positions of power for posterity? Power, unless backed by governmental force, cannot last either.

Just a cursory look at the powerful of the past, displays the fleeting nature of power. Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, to name just a few, were powerful men, controlling large kingdoms. But their power died with them.

Power isn’t a legacy worth leaving, since power, without leadership, can only be maintained by the use of force. How many companies, when handed over to the next generation, succumbed to ruled based force, destroying the leadership based influence of the founder?

Power without principles is a dismal legacy. History records numerous instances. But what if the legacy recipient has leadership ability? Then the legacy wasn’t power, but leadership principles. These provide the proper foundation to grow the organization.

By reviewing the potential legacies, on quickly ascertains, that any gift, without also learning the principles behind the gift, quickly boomerangs upon the receiver. This does more harm than good.

The only legacy truly worth leaving to the next generation is the leadership principles to live a successful and honorable life. Without a legacy of leadership, everything that is built, will fall apart.

But with it, everything that is built becomes the foundation for further growth. This is a legacy worth leaving to the next generation of leaders.

Surviving the Test of Time

When analyzing the legacies available to the next generation, one quickly moves past the power, fame, and fortune, into the realm of ideas, the only legacy that truly last.

Ideas have consequences, making or breaking people, depending upon the ideas adopted. Therefore, the true legacy given by a leader to posterity, is the lives impacted by the principles taught through thought, word, and deed.

Nothing else will stand the test of time, not his fortune, not his fame, nor his power. This radically redefines the purpose of life. When a leader learns, that objects sought in life are fleeting, called vanity of vanities by Solomon, then leaving objects for posterity is doubly fleeting.

It’s only the ideas that will survive the test of time. Ideas that help people live a life of character, honor, and integrity, leading to leadership that moves society ahead, in a direction honoring to God, family and country, are the true legacies given to posterity.

Legacies Require Introspection

If leadership is so important to the betterment of society, then why do so few people strive to lead? Leadership is tough.

It requires people to look honestly at themselves. This opens them to self-criticism. This identifyies the necessary changes to grow, rather than falling back on self deception and blame.

Remember the pool analogy, where people follow the current created in the pool? Followers naturally move with the current, regardless of whether the current is moving in the proper direction for leadership growth.

But leaders are different, leaders are Rascals, as Chris Brady taught in his superb book, Rascals. Leaders follow an inner compass, determining which direction the current should be moving, making a stand against the current and crowd, if necessary, and it typically is necessary.

Standing against the current is a brave act. Moving against the current is a leadership act. Running against the current, while encouraging others to do the same, is a leadership act at the highest of echelons.

Reversing the culture of decline is the pinnacle of leadership. Learning and doing this, with a plan to pass on the principles to posterity, reversing the current of decline generationally, is what true legacies are all about.

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Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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Leaving a Leadership Legacy