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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #153: How to Develop Your Legacy as a Leader

September 9, 2021
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #153: How to Develop Your Legacy as a Leader

How will you and your leadership be remembered?  Today Perry and Chris talk about the intentional actions you can take to develop a long and lasting legacy. 

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Read the Transcript:

Perry Holley:    Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. I am Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.

Chris Goede:     And I’m Chris Goede, Vice-President with John Maxwell Company. Welcome. Thank you for joining. As a reminder, we would love for you to take this episode, maybe a previous one, share it with some of your team members, maybe some of your peers, maybe even your leader. Make sure you do that in the right way, by the way. Don’t say, hey, he was thinking about you and said that, like Perry does me with these titles. But man, we would absolutely love for you to do that. If you want to download today’s Learner Guide, you want to learn more about some of the training, some of the coaching that Perry and our executive team does with leaders all around the world, don’t hesitate to visit, and you can leave your information there and we’ll be in touch with you.

Well, today’s topic is titled, How to develop your legacy as a leader. And I love this title, Perry. I want to give you just some of my initial thoughts and I’m going to let you kind of dive in. There’s no doubt about it, that every leader has a legacy, good or bad, right? Just like we talk about influence. One of the things that I think people get overwhelmed with when we say the word legacy is they have this big picture of it. I work with an organization and our team does to where they rotate leadership positions every two years.

Perry Holley:    Wow.

Chris Goede:     And we were in a conversation and it’s pretty interesting. They do it for innovation and all this kind of good stuff. It has some positives and it has some negatives. We were in a conversation earlier this week with a client. And we were talking about their predecessors and the legacy that they leave every two years. And what is that? And what is that on the organization and on the team? And what does the next leader need to do to either cover up from that, or maybe build off of?

And so, as we talk about this today, I want us to have the mindset around where you’re at right now. What is the legacy that you want to leave with that position, with your circle of influence? Now, in order to be able to do that, there’s no doubt about it that this takes intentionality. It’s a big word of ours as an organization, as John, in order to kind of develop this legacy of yours in the current position you are. So with context, I just wanted to kind of set that up, and I thought about it with the title we just talked about, because this is important. And some people write it off as a big word. Like, well, I mean, I still have 15, 20 years to work. Why are we talking about legacy? I want you to look at it like, what’s your legacy going to be in the position that you’re currently serving?

Perry Holley:    Right. No, that’s exactly it. It comes up a lot. We teach The 5 Levels of Leadership. At level five toward the end of our day in the workshop, we’re talking about how do you become this level five leader? And it comes up, what will be in the exercise, will you be remembered? How will you be remembered? Most of us as we age, we begin to think about it more. And what is it I’m going to leave behind when I’m gone? But I wonder why I wasn’t considered of this when I was younger.

Chris Goede:     Yeah. I got that same thing. Yeah.

Perry Holley:    I mean, somebody may have been trying to make me do that, but I don’t know. I don’t think about it in my twenties and thirties, but all of a sudden it’s become important. So today I just want to encourage listeners of any age, every age to think about how you want to be remembered and begin writing that script today.

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Chris Goede:     Yeah. I love that. And it goes just in line with what we were talking about, like today, what does that look like for you? John says that people will summarize your life in one sentence, which is scary when you’re gone. And so if you were to write that one sentence now, that may be a big, big exercise for you. Again, going back to kind of what Perry’s talking about, what I mentioned in the kickoff, which is what is the one sentence that would summarize your impact and influence on the position that you currently have? And that’s kind of the legacy of your role.

You can also do it, as Perry mentioned, from the bigger side of things, which is your overall legacy. And I think that’s something that not only benefits the future generation of your family and all kinds of stuff, but it also then is something that’s bigger than yourself when you look at that from a big picture. Again, I think as we go through this in our conversation today, I want you to have that mindset. I want you to think 30,000 foot view, but then I want you to think 30 feet and what does it look like for your current role because I think that’ll play into your experience of figuring out what is your legacy, both overall and in this position.

There’s two questions that come to mind. And man, I agree with you. I wish I would’ve thought about some of this stuff when I was earlier. That wasn’t what I was thinking about when I was 22, 23 and 24. But there’s two questions I think come to mind when we talk about this for our listeners, that can be very helpful if you answer this. And why I’m excited to share these with you is, as part of the Maxwell enterprise, you have probably heard a little bit about Jeff Henderson and his FOR content. And Jeff is becoming a part of our, what we’re calling our league of leaders, extraordinary leaders to where we’re having different thought leaders help us with content and speaking and writing.

And on his content FOR, he actually asked two questions that I think you would really want to consider around this conversation we’re having about legacy. What is it that you want to be known for in your life, but also in the current position you’re at? And then the harder question to answer is what are you known for? And then there’s a gap that you’ve got to analyze, because there’s a difference. There’s a gap in there. And so I’d love for you to be able to ask yourself those two questions and then look at the gap. And by the way, Perry and I had the opportunity to sit just last week through the new training that we’re bringing out, the corporate training for teams and for organizations on Jeff’s content. And if that’s something that you’re interested in, again, go back to, and you could fill out a form. We’ll get you some information about that from a corporate standpoint.

But I think if you go back to these two questions and you think about your legacy in the position you have now, or your overall legacy, I think if you begin to ask these questions and answer them, this is what will keep you inspired. It’s one thing to be inspired, right? We go to a conference, we go to a training, but what is it that allows you to remain inspired about what you’re doing? And to your point, I think these questions help us with that in regards to our legacy.

Perry Holley:    It was fascinating to sit in the room with Jeff and we were talking about for your business, what do you want your business to be known for? And then what is your business known for? And it’s a legacy type of a question, but then he turned it around, he said, what are you known for? And what do you want to be known for? But what are you really known for? And people start to really reflect on the gap between those two is what I need to work on. I also wanted to change, not change, but add to the definition of legacy. I always thought, I think for me it was, what am I going to leave to people? Leaving stuff to my kids or leaving stuff to my wife if I were to pass away or anything.

And I picked this up somewhere, but it just really, it resonated with me so much. It’s not the focus on what I’m leaving to people, but what am I leaving in people? And that just changed my entire outlook. And it’s going to require some intentional thinking and some intentional actions on my part to do that. And I thought really one of the first actions, and I have several here that I’d like to present, but the first action, if you’re going to leave a powerful legacy is really to invest in yourself. A legacy is about what you leave to or in others. And you cannot give what you don’t have.

Chris Goede:     That’s right. That’s right.

Perry Holley:    So you need to be constantly growing and learning. And I know it’s a big piece of what we teach here, but it’s really been a game changer in my life and I think in the lives of the leaders that we get to coach and work with.

Chris Goede:     Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s interesting because the only way, which is our next comment to invest in others is if you invest in yourself. I think about even just you and your journey of investing in yourself in regards to consuming content. And I used to talk to Perry about what he was listening to on audible, but then I quit doing that because it’s like 10 to one compared to the amount of books and content that he gets through versus what I. But what’s awesome about that is we’ll be in team meetings and Perry’s like, he tells the team, “Here’s a thought. Here’s an idea and I heard this the other day.” And people are like, “Where does he come up with that stuff?” Right? And it’s because he’s taken it serious to invest in himself in order to be able to, our second point here, invest in others.

And so it’s really about valuing people or your team and finding a way to add value to them. I just gave you an example, Perry values being a part of our team. He invested in himself and in order to add value to our team and invest in others, he’s sharing with the team and adding value to us in what he’s learned. And so yeah, I love your point. Invest in yourself. Second one is investing in others.

Perry Holley:    So leaving a powerful legacy starts with investing in me, continuing to investing in others. And I said, another area that I focus on is living by a set of values. Your values really determine your behaviors and they act as a decision-making filter for you. And so your legacy is going to be defined by how you behave and how you make decisions, direct your life. Asking, what is your true purpose, what’s important to you and how do you want to live your life to impact others, it really comes out of the values that you have. And then, people, I found, we do a big values exercise in the five levels and people are always, they find when they’re unclear about their values and beliefs, they often come across as kind of unfocused or inconsistent in their behaviors. So I find that really knowing what’s important, what drives you personally, how you want to be remembered, creates tremendous clarity in how you should live your life and you’ll eventually impact others and do that. But I think values and understanding your values and living to those values is such an important part of that.Chris Goede:     Yeah. I think what I’ll take away from your comment right there is that if you understand what your personal values are, not the organization values, not the team values, but your, what are Chris Goede’s personal values? To your point, it allows you to be consistent in making decisions that will protect your legacy in that position and/or futuristically. And I think that’s absolutely huge. We talk a lot about when leading people and leading yourself, you need to know how you’re wired, what your learned behaviors are, and what your values are. Two out of the three of those are very structured and can give you some great principles and guidelines on that when it comes to leading yourself.

Well, people leave a lasting legacy to your point. And I love what you said, where it was, hey, I don’t want to leave things to people or for people. I want to leave things in people. And when you do that, and when you think about that, people have a very clear understanding of the law of cause and effect or the law of sowing and reaping. For example, every action that they take, they understand that there are effects and consequences that will result from that, which is another reason why you need to have some structure and a decision-making filter around your own personal life.

And so when you then consider, and I’m thinking about right now, as I’m talking, some people that didn’t necessarily have that in place, right? Both public figures and private figures that I know that maybe didn’t consider the consequences of their actions by the decisions that they made. And so what ended up happening was maybe an outcome came out of that, that absolutely destroyed their legacy. And so I think as we think about this, as people, we got to understand, we’ve got to have that structure because there’s a cause and effect to your point. And so when we make this decision, this is going to be the consequence and that directly affects your legacy. Again, in the current position you are, whether it’s taking shortcuts, whatever, or even in your overall legacy, remember we’re giving you kind of two tracks to run on here, because we want you to be able to relate to right now, what is your legacy in that position? But we also want you to think about it from a big picture.

Perry Holley:    And I think you can also impact your legacy. This probably falls a little bit under investing in others, but taking the time to provide feedback and coaching to others that what you do is important to me and how I can help make you better, how I can help maybe show you blind spots, maybe how I can help you improve and grow. To me, it’s making that investment in making people better that sets your legacy on a track that it’s about others. It’s not about you.

I was reflecting on that, and I think very positively today, about the people in my life who took the time. Not everybody will do it. Not everybody is comfortable or feel safe telling you the truth and giving you that direct feedback, but I have a few people in my life that have, and I seek them out. They have a very lasting legacy in my mind about what they did for me and how much they cared for me to tell me things that other people may not be willing to tell me. It’s kind of that inner circle thing a bit, but it’s a high legacy thing to me.

Chris Goede:     I also think that those that have positive legacy design the culture of their team. We talk a lot about the fact that listen, culture is going to happen one way or another. And so you need to be intentional about it. And so what I find with those that have, again on my life, a positive legacy, they designed the culture of the team of which I was able to be a part of. They just didn’t allow things to happen. They were very intentional about how we went about doing business as a team. They were very intentional about the decisions they made, what they stood for. And also the way that it felt to work in that environment. And again, we’re talking about that culture, right? So it’s like, what does it feel like? How do people act, think, and interact inside that culture?

And so in order for you to have this positive legacy in the role that you are now, or as an overall leader, just remember that it’s going to take intentionality and you’re going to have to design that culture that people are going to be a part of. It makes me think about Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Perry Holley:    That’s right.

Chris Goede:     And when we talk about culture, it is a feeling, right? It’s like, what does it feel like to work here? Maybe it’s even a little more specific. What does it feel like to be led by you?

Perry Holley:    That’s right.

Chris Goede:     Or as we talk about, what’s it look like to be on the other side of my leadership? Which is a question we often don’t want to ask, or we ask and then run out of the room and let the team answer it themselves.

Perry Holley:    Yeah. Well, before I let you wrap it up, I just had another thought. I’m sure there’s many more ways and things you work on your culture, but two that I’ve noticed in my life and as I’m watching my kids grow up and become parents, is that the people you hang around with and the way you spend or invest your time will have a huge effect on your legacy. And the people I see with the strongest and longest-lasting legacies, manage time, really, as a precious resource, that it is. It’s non-renewable. It’s gone. And they also seem to have a network of high character, high-performing people around them. I’m just going to tell you relationships matter. They’ll affect you one of two ways. They’ll either lift you up or drag you down. So if you expect to have a lasting legacy, who you are with and how you invest your time is probably a pretty good way to focus.

Chris Goede:     I think about two things as we wrap up today, as you talk about that. John says, you’re the average of the five closest people to you, both spiritually, financially, socially, whatever it is, you have different pockets of people. And so to your point, I love your comment, right? It’s about, okay, if I’m thinking about this legacy in my current role or overall, then I need to make sure that I’m surrounding myself with the right people. And so I also think about the fact that, a statement that I make a lot, which is control what you can control. And what we laid out for you today are things that you can control to develop your legacy.

And my final comment is, I just want to go back and I know we’ve kind of hit on this throughout, but listen, the word legacy can overwhelm you. It can be a big word, right? I think about what we’re carrying with John’s legacy. We are sitting here today with millions of downloads because we stand on the shoulders of a guy that has done this for 35 years and implement all these principles. And so we’re building a legacy for John. We’re a part of that. And that’s a huge movement, right? So then I go, well, what’s Chris’ legacy, right? It’s nothing compared to that.

And so I want to even drill down a little bit further and say the role that you’re currently serving, even if you’re not leading anybody, which we say leadership is influenced. That’s another conversation for another day. But if you have anybody reporting to you, the role which you have, you’re still leaving a legacy behind in that role once you move on. So take these things that we talked about today and begin to look at them internally, because whether we like it or not, we’re leaving a legacy, both in our position and in our life.

Perry Holley:    Fantastic. Thank you, Chris. Great insights. As a reminder, if you’d like to have the Learner Guide for this episode, or leave us a question or a comment or learn more about our offerings, you can do all that at We always love hearing from you. And we’re always grateful that you would spend this time with us each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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