Leaving Your Mark: Leadership Legacy Examples

The legacy you leave behind when you’re no longer part of leadership isn’t just about your accomplishments and accolades. It has to do with how you approach any and all issues that fall in front of you. In the modern business world, leadership legacy is all about moving towards sustainable success.

It’s important that companies begin thinking beyond their short-term goals and toward the long-term impact of those who are in leadership. There is a lot of value in investing in each moment and considering the consequences your decisions will have both in the present moment and in the future. 

Let’s take a look at a few leadership legacy examples to inspire you as you plan your future.

Leadership Legacy Examples: Graham and Schultz

When looking back at successful business leaders, there are a lot of people who rose above expectations, allowing them to leave their mark on the organization.

Take, for instance, Katharine Graham, who took the helm of The Washington Post in 1972 and became the first woman named CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

After breaking through the glass ceiling, Graham went on to fight relentlessly for the Constitutional right to free press after she was slapped with a restraining order for her attempts to publish The Pentagon Papers. Her efforts led to a Supreme Court decision that “defended the First Amendment right of free press against prior restraint by the government,” and reaffirmed one of the nation’s most fundamental values. 

Another leader who’s left a lasting legacy is Howard Schultz. As the former CEO of Starbucks, he’s left a legacy that’s had an impact greater than just the delicious coffee. His legacy has impacted all of those who make the coffee and those who work in their stores. Schultz made it a point to prioritize the well-being of his employees by offering comprehensive healthcare benefits and supporting various communities.

One of the ways he did this was through expanding educational access through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. This program provided a tuition-free college education online and hired thousands of military veterans and spouses, as well as refugees and underprivileged youth, allowing people to create a better life for themselves and loved ones. He chose a legacy that gave opportunities to those around him, and as a result, he built a successful company that fostered the professional growth of its employees.

Lasting Legacies Formed Through Transition

There are a lot of legacies that are worth imitating, especially when a company is going through a time of transition. Transitions tend to go smoother when a leader is willing and able to delegate successfully. Delegation encourages your team to grow professionally. Gallup conducted a study with 143 CEOs from the Fortune 500 List and found that the most successful ones were effective delegators.

If you want leadership legacy examples during a transition, think about Anne Mulcahy. As the former CEO of Xerox, she was able to accomplish what a lot of people believed to be impossible with the help of her team, to whom she appropriately delegated tasks.

Mulcahy and her leadership team managed to facilitate a multi-billion dollar program that restored Xerox’s profitability from the brink of bankruptcy. She relied heavily on her team and collaboration with those around her. Their team made aggressive changes to their business model that ultimately reestablished them to financial stability and a stable market position.

These leadership legacy examples demonstrate that leadership is forged by the way you see the circumstances in front of you. Challenges and hardships can break an organization or be its rebirth; it all depends on who is at the helm and the legacy they are trying to leave behind. 

Why Trust and Credibility Matter in a Leader’s Legacy

Trustworthiness and credibility are everything when it comes to great leadership. These days, current and prospective employees want to see their company leaders uphold integrity, accountability, and responsibility. A leader’s ability to inspire others to be transparent and honest is fundamental to sustaining long-term success for the business. Without the trust of your employees and your organization as a whole, your credibility will falter, and so will the legacy you’re trying to leave behind.

Unfortunately, there are examples of how not building trust or credibility can negatively impact the legacy a leader will leave. Elizabeth Holmes was the founder and previous CEO of the health technology company Theranos. Under her leadership, she claimed that the company developed an innovative blood-testing technology that would change how we handle disease detection.

After the company went under federal investigation, it was proven that her technology didn’t do what she said it did. She was charged and accursed of federal fraud for misleading her investors, doctors, and patients about what her technology could actually do.

Instead of a legacy known for paving the way for cutting-edge healthcare research, her legacy is one painted with distrust and fraud, which caused the company to go under.

Building a Team That Will Outlive Your Tenure

Those who carry on your legacy when you’re finished are those who you trusted to help you build it in the first place. As a leader, who you choose to surround yourself with is key to lasting success and a great legacy.

In today’s labor force, it can be difficult to find the right talent to bring into your circle. Most industries face unprecedented levels of low staffing, and finding someone to apply, interview, and then succeed at work can be, well, tricky. 

A leadership legacy is cultivated by employee engagement and led by motivated team members. Knowing your organization’s strengths and sharing each other’s achievements is critical to ensuring that your legacy will carry on long after you are gone.

Great Leaders Attract and Retain Talent

Since your team members are the key to a great legacy, knowing how to attract employees and eventual leaders is important.

Today, talent acquisition and retention is challenging, to say the least. Prospective employees aren’t just looking for the highest gross salary. They are looking for exceptional benefits, time off, work-life balance, and an encouraging environment that promotes personal growth.

Current employees are being poached for their talent to be used at companies that can provide them with the benefits and movement they want. The millennial workforce is moving jobs and careers more frequently than ever before.

One of the keys to establishing a lasting and meaningful leadership legacy is to foster a good work culture. A company’s work culture is like the invisible hand that moves the organization forward. It’s important that managers prioritize inclusion, transparency, and kindness in today’s work environment. If not, don’t expect your employees to stay very long. 

Employees today, especially millennials and Gen Z employees, crave the human aspect of work. Gone are the days of employees being treated as workhorses. Today’s workers are looking for someone who respects them, relates to them, and ultimately invests in their personal growth, inside and outside the company.

Navigating Challenges and Uncertainties

Nothing is certain in life, and not in the business world, either. Unforeseen challenges and hardships are inevitable. What you prioritize and how you adapt during these transitions will be the framework for your leadership legacy.

Throughout history, we see that legacies are built upon the shoulders of how leaders handle change and uncertainty. Economic downturns, government regulations, and underperforming companies. All these things can make or break a company leader.

However, opportunity is in the eye of the beholder. Consider Daria Gonzales’ story. Gonzales is the CEO of a digital marketing company called Wunderdogs. The COVID-19 pandemic eliminated 80% of her business, however, instead of keeping their head down. Daria and her team looked around and saw many other companies struggling. They saw an opportunity instead of an adversity. The Wunderdogs team opened up a hotline that was used to get new ideas and help companies think creatively about their communications. As a result, businesses were saved, and their company doubled.

Why Personal Development Matters

Leaders who leave a legacy worth following are committed to continuous learning and personal growth of their people. However, that is easier said than done. Oftentimes, leaders get caught up in the day-to-day immediate tasks in front of them. When important deadlines approach and our decisions have weighty consequences, often personal reflection and growth are overlooked. Without personal reflection, we fail to utilize past mistakes for future accomplishments.  

People are intensely aware of their leaders and the things they do or don’t do. If you want to lead your team to look a certain way, you better be ready to do the work to become that yourself. Your employees and organizations are expecting you to face challenges and forge new paths that they can follow. When leaders prioritize their personal growth and development, they are modeling the importance of innovation and progress.

What Kind of Leadership Legacy Will You Leave?

In the end, you must decide what kind of leader you want to be. Your contribution to the little things today creates the enduring vision and legacy that paves the way for a sustainable and prosperous future.

At Catalyst Group ECR, we provide the next generation of company leaders with the knowledge, insights, and skills necessary to leave a lasting leadership legacy. We want to encourage you to take the necessary steps today to leave a lasting impact on your organization for decades to come.

Contact Lori Moen today to get started!

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