How are you doing on building your legacy? As Bill Hybels often reminds us, “Leaders are responsible for moving people from here to there.” However, the journey itself is not the end of the leader’s story. Our legacy lies in what people say after the work is completed.
Your legacy, and mine, will primarily fall into one of three categories…
People will say nice things about you. People will say bad things about you. Or, people will say nothing at all about you.
One of these will be your legacy. How important this is, is a matter of personal perspective. But, what cannot be disputed is how a leader creates his or her legacy—one day at a time.
Tomorrow does not determine our legacy, it is today—multiplied by as many days as God sees fit to grant us. To paraphrase Emerson:
The years tell a tale the days never knew.
Every action we take, or fail to take, is part of our leadership story and our legacy. Our question is, do we want to author the story or leave it to chance? I’m guessing you will probably want a hand in creating your legacy. If that is true, here are a few things to keep in mind, today.
Every person matters—How you see people impacts how you treat people. Every person you interact with has talents, gifts, strengths and weaknesses, for sure. Do you see them as individuals uniquely created by the creator? If you do, honor, dignity and respect will be a reasonable response. My prayer is to see people through God’s eyes.
Every decision matters—In our lifetime, we will make thousands and thousands of judgment calls. We’ll weigh the facts, consider the alternatives, evaluate the consequences and potential impact of our decisions and then, we’ll make the call. We’ll get some right and badly miss others. Each and every decision is part of our legacy.
Time matters—The most valuable resource a leader possesses is his or her time. How we steward our time signals our priorities and our passion. Our time on any task creates leadership energy on that issue. The minutes we invest today can have tremendous impact in the weeks, months and years that follow. The Psalmist implores us to “number our days.” We don’t know how many more we’ll have.
Moments matter—Certainly, our legacy will be punctuated by milestones and moments of strategic significance. But not to be overlooked are the seemingly trivial, insignificant moments in our lives. These may not be full chapters in our story, but they are surely pages and paragraphs: the spontaneous opportunity to pray with someone, the notes we write, the words of encouragement we share, or the chance to lend a helping hand to someone in need. Far from the strategic plan and the platform, moments also shape our legacy.
As I get older and older, I am more and more convicted by the words of the Psalmist:
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
This day … not tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Today is His gift to us. My prayers and my efforts are directed toward stewarding it well. This is the only plan I have for ensuring my legacy.
My strategy is grounded in a deeply held belief that when we stand before Him, our “well done” is contingent on the number of days we have “done well.”
What can you do today to build your legacy?
Mark Miller started his career at Chick-fil-A as an hourly team member and now serves as the vice president, High Performance Leadership. He has written several best-selling books including The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, co-authored with Ken Blanchard. He travels extensively, encouraging and equipping leaders. He has attended the GLS for 20 years. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, will release in March and is available for pre-order on Amazon here.