Legacy Schmegacy – What Will You Be Known For?

Political pundits recently have been opining about the likely legacy of various global political leaders including Fidel Castro and President Barack Obama. Certainly, the word legacy seems fitting for leaders who play on the world stage, but what about the rest of us – ordinary people trying to lead our families, communities, and businesses? Is the concept of legacy relevant to us?

Author Shannon Alder once wrote, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”

I have been talking about leadership legacy for years now because I believe it gets to the heart of “purposeful leadership.” Let’s face it, being a leader is a tireless job and one that’s often very daunting. Irrespective of the leadership position, there is typically more need than there is time to fill it. As such effective leadership is about the disciplined focus on priorities. I think of legacy as defining “what you want to be known for as a leader.” 

Several years ago while writing my book, The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire, Engage, and WOW, I noted that “Zappos is no longer in the shoe business; they are in the happiness business! Leadership became passionate about a goal that transcended products or processes. Those leaders shifted their attention from business success to transformative objectives and, in the end, elevated their significance and legacy. Columnist and author Irving Kristol once suggested that leaders need to define that ‘one big thing and stick with it. Leaders who had one very big idea and one big commitment are the ones who leave a legacy.’ I am an advocate of taking the time to think of that ‘one big thing’ that you want to accomplish as a leader and forging your own ‘leadership legacy statement.”

From a family leadership perspective, I have committed to “be half the father my father was” and from a business perspective my leadership legacy statement has been woven into my service vision “to serve those who serve well.” As this year comes to an end, isn’t it a good time to think about your leadership brand and your lasting impact?

Recently, I was asked to provide a TEDx talk on branding (personal and corporate) as well as leadership legacy. I’ve provided the link to help you craft your leadership legacy statement.


What is your “one big thing”? What do you want to be known for and what do you want your lasting legacy to be? The sooner you craft your vision for purposeful leadership the longer you’ll have to turn that vision into reality! 

Here’s to maximizing a powerful leadership legacy…

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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