I have had the privilege to study leadership for over a decade now and to lead in different organizational settings.

Legacy: Why Successful Leaders Think of Legacy from Day one and everyday

As a keen observer, I’ve noticed that in many organizations, a staff member will join the team, serve for a few years and when she leaves, a new person comes on board. All of a sudden, you notice a huge gap in performance of the duties of that position. Effectiveness drops drastically. It’s almost as if the leadership has to retrain someone for the position again. It takes the organization many years to takes one step forward only to take one step back to where it started when a key staff member moves on. The investment and skills that the previous employee had gained are taken away from the organization. Because organizations are by nature dynamic and people come and go, I’ve seen many organizations both large and small crippled by these natural changes.

I’ve also seen organizations both large and small that are led in such a way that when someone leaves or moves on, the succession is smooth and the new person is at least as effective as the old if not more.

This is a small but crucial effect of ineffective¬†succession planning. This has to do with legacy. Legacy building is about adding value to leaders who in turn add value to other leaders. It’s about multiplying leadership both across time and space. Legacy has to do with what you leave behind, not what you are leaving for.

Within an organization, people will always move on. And there is nothing wrong with leaders moving on. That doesn’t necessarily mean the organization or the leaders are bad. Our lives are lived in seasons. Some people may be called to an organization for life while others are called for a relatively short period of time. Some people die and leave the organization unprepared. The fact is that people will move on.

Related: How to Create a Lasting Legacy


Why is legacy building important

  • A leader’s enduring impact is measured in terms of succession.
  • One person is too few to achieve anything significant.
  • Many important things in life are not accomplished in a day. It may take years, decades, or even generations. Legacy ensures that leaders will always be there to lead the vision.
  • Because none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, legacy puts the vision above of all of us and makes sure that we always have someone on the throne and in every position that is necessary to achieve the vision even it if takes decades or generations.
  • Legacy building preserves and passes on the talent and lessons that the organization learns along the years ensuring that they are not lost.
  • Legacy building cushions all enduring organizations and protects them from collapsing when strong leaders and staff leave the organization and move on to other things.
  • Through organization-wide succession planning at every level, legacy building ensures that there are no leadership gaps.
  • Legacy building ensures that efficiency continues to increase in the organization.