Legacy questions

Some leaders work toward building a legacy where people in their organizations (or families), at some point in the future, would ask – “What would he/she have done?”

A few others, instead,  work toward building a legacy where people ask – “How would he/she have gone about making the decision?”

The first question naturally follows legendary leaders. However, there is an inherent problem with this question – leaders have their own signature style of execution. Asking “what would Steve Jobs do?” isn’t all that instructive because it is near impossible to give a Jobs-ian keynote. Steve’s style of delivery was Steve’s own. You should probably focus on building your own style.

Asking how Steve might have approached a keynote, on the other hand, would likely be very instructive. We would find that he spent hours rehearsing every detail. And, if he, as a master presenter needed do that, we probably would need to invest even more time and energy to deliver a flawless keynote. Asking “what” isn’t that helpful. Asking “how,” on the other hand, is.

And, that’s the challenge for us as leaders – it is always tempting to work toward leaving behind a team asking what we would have done. It is great for our egos and, while it will still leave behind a strong culture, it risks leaving behind people and organizations who will never grow to their fullest potential simply because they are too busy trying to be you.

Leaving behind a team that has a clear understanding of “how things are done here,” on the other hand, is leaving behind a culture that is built on ideas bigger than you. It isn’t easy to do. But, it is work worth doing.

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