In the movie, Gladiator, the Emperor of Rome is dying.
“When a man sees his end, he wants to know there was some purpose to his life.
How will the world speak my name in years to come?
Will I be known as the philosopher, the warrior…
It’s a good scene, and a reasonable question. How do you want to be remembered? What will your legacy be, as a manager and as a leader?
Now is the right time to consider these questions. By doing so, you’re able to shape your work and your career to achieve the legacy that you want to achieve.
Your leadership legacy: questions to ask yourself
As you consider your leadership legacy, here are some topics to reflect on:
- What are the achievements that I want to be remembered for?
- What are the memories that I want colleagues to have of me?
- What do I want people to remember as my core values, that guided me through my career?
- What do I want people to remember as my greatest passions, the focus of my life’s work?
- What stories do I want people tell about me?
This is not a quick exercise and requires some reflection. For this reason, give yourself some time.
Write down your desired leadership legacy
A eulogy is simply a speech in praise of a person, especially one recently dead or retired (or perhaps simply ‘departed’ from their current job). Writing your own eulogy is a simple technique to help you define your leadership legacy.
Ask yourself all the above questions, and reflect on:
How do I want to be remembered?
Then imagine the future, imagine that your team have gathered to celebrate you (at the end of your current job, or when leaving your current company, or at the end of your entire career).
Your team members take it in turns to step to the front of the room and share their memories of you: what you’ve achieved, how you’ve supported them, your values, your passions, the focus of your work.
Write down exactly what you want them to say, at that point in the future.
The benefits of writing your legacy
There are many benefits to writing your own legacy.
Clarity. A well written eulogy clarifies the leadership legacy that you want to build. Think of the eulogy as a living document, not just a one-off exercise. Start it, reflect, come back to it. Work on it over time and it can become a profound expression of everything that you want to achieve. Having this clarity has enormous benefits.
Motivation. With clarity comes motivation. Once you’ve clearly articulated the legacy that you want to create, you’ll be more motivated to deliver it.
Decision making. There are plenty of times you must make tough decisions as a leader. A well-written leadership legacy helps to guide your decision-making. You’re clearer about what’s important to you and that will guide and inform your decisions.
Development. The eulogy also becomes a benchmark against which you can evaluate your performance. Where are you already delivering? How do you need to improve? These kinds of considerations feed into your development planning and make sure that your investment in development is focused and pays off.
Charting your career path. Finally, a eulogy can help guide your career. Reflect on what you want people to say about you at the end of your career, it’s a useful way of exploring your career goals.
Align your day-to-day with your desired leadership legacy
Ultimately, your eulogy defines the leadership legacy you want to build and it becomes your guide.
You must make sure that your day-to-day behaviors are aligned to the outcomes you’ve defined.
There are several techniques to help you do this:
Seek feedback. This is one of the most powerful (and most frequently ignored) opportunities for development. Take a look at how to request feedback for a coworker for more guidance on this topic.
Find time for reflection. Finding time for reflection is an under-valued activity. Consider this quote:
Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Write a leadership diary. Take reflection a step further, write your leadership diary. This will provide a rich source of further reflection as you build up your entries.
In summary: writing a leadership legacy (in the form of a eulogy) is a great way of keeping yourself on track and shape your work and your career to fulfill your destiny!