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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

How to leave a leadership legacy

In connecting with, nurturing, and inspiring your people, you can generate a positive and long-lasting legacy far beyond your tenure.

How to leave a leadership legacy
[Elnur / Adobe Stock]

If you were to step down from your position today, how would you be remembered? Would it be for steering the ship through a crisis and coming through stronger? Would it be for your attitude on employee well-being? Would it be for your refreshing transparency and outside-the-box thinking? Would you be remembered at all?

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Countless leaders fail to leave a legacy. They are relevant only for the time they hold their position, focused on the now, the results, and the accolades. There will always be another goal to reach, another accolade to receive—and that will continue whether you are there or not.

The way you will be remembered comes down to how you align your values and behaviors, followed by those of your organization. If you’ve ever heard yourself say “That wasn’t my intention,” then you’ll get the point. The intention is all well and good, but if the behaviors that nurture the values aren’t defined and understood by all involved, there is absolutely no point.

IT BEGINS AND ENDS WITH CULTURE

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What does the culture of your organization say? How do your people live your values every day? Is training required to ensure every single person understands how they should act in each situation? Is there a robust feedback and evaluation process in place to continually align, re-align, and stay on track? Are you, as the leader, present? Are you connected to your organization?

Does removing the mystery of your values and actions, or lack thereof, impact your culture? Your culture is the 150,000 little things that make your organization the unique and amazing entity that it is. People are your biggest asset and your legacy will live on through these people.

LEGACY IS NOT ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL

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Legacy is about leaving behind an awesome team of individuals who are being the best they can be, continually growing, learning, and looking to the future.

Management theory labels these kinds of leaders as servant leaders. That sounds very dramatic. In simple terms, I would describe it as when, as a CEO, you aren’t needed or called upon. Your amazing people are doing their thing, and all is well. Those are the days that I notice and reflect on, noting that I must be doing something right.

To some extent, legacy is about putting others first. Mostly it is about losing the ego, and acknowledging that you cannot realize the vision or strategy of your organization without the whole team. Their success is your success, as an organization and individually.

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THE POWER IS IN YOUR PEOPLE

Results matter, I get it. But people matter, just as much, if not more. To some, this will sound like mumbo-jumbo. Yet if people are your biggest asset, shouldn’t you give them as much attention as you can? Because without them, how would you achieve your results?

Asking “How are you?” over “How are the figures looking?” is a starter. Think about it: if your mission is to do the best for your organization, you want it to still be profitable. You want to make sure that your people are still hitting their targets, but you also want them to feel good about themselves and their contributions to the overall success of the company.

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Invest your time and money into them, setting them up for future success whether you are a part of the picture or not. Empower them to make decisions and mistakes. Remember, as people, we crave human interaction, so instead of an impersonal email whisked off, be visible and do it in person.

As a leader, it is critical to walk the walk and talk the talk. People look to you and will learn from you, so make sure your values and behaviors shine through in everything you do. And if you have a bad day, own up to it. No one is perfect and your team may just respect you more for it.

In creating a legacy as a leader, people will remember how you made them feel, and how you helped them get to where they are today. In connecting with, nurturing, and inspiring your people, you can generate a positive and long-lasting legacy far beyond your tenure.

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Eric Schurke is the CEO of Moneypenny in North America. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat, and digital comms.

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