This week sees the launch of the First Women exhibition featuring portraits of 100 women in the UK who have achieved ‘firsts’ in their particular field of endeavour. Photographer Anita Corbin developed the idea ten years ago as a way of leaving behind a legacy of her work, and launching it in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
It made me ponder on the idea of what one does to create a legacy. The word is defined as ‘something that is part of your history or that remains behind from an earlier time’.
This exhibition also coincided with me discussing this subject of legacy with a number of my coaching clients. As they transition on to new ventures, I found that this TEDx presentation by Brad Meltzer was a good way of prompting their thinking about how they may be remembered in their workplaces by those who have been impacted by their leadership.
The funny thing is that legacy is not something that you can control – you can only influence it. Because regardless of what you attempt to do as a leader – for example, do what you say you will do, listen attentively, value others, create an inspiring vision or treat employees fairly; it will those who are the recipients of your leadership that will judge you. How have they been inspired, or not, by what you have done?
As Brad Meltzer says in his talk, often you will never know whose lives you have positively influenced, because the people will never tell you. So that means behaving every day with the intention of leaving a positive legacy with others. Answer that phone call in a welcoming manner, smile in the shop when you buy your newspaper, say thanks to others when they have helped you – its all those small things that add up to having a positive difference in other peoples’ lives.
Don’t wait until you are about to leave the organisation and then think about how people will remember you, do it now, and then behave in that way from tomorrow.