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Leaving a Legacy

Jack holds Bruce Yerman after the Philadelphia Games 1963

This is a photo of me with my father after the Philadelphia Games (track meet 1963). It appeared in papers across the country. I'm sure some thought I might be a runner like my father, and although I tried, I simply did not have the talent, but he left me with a legacy of enduring qualities that I learned from his stories, his encouragement, and his example. I find the same pattern in work as well.

A managing director has hit a successful stride. The physical facilities are attractive, he has proven programs and system of operations, he knows his workforce, its talents, and he can predict the challenges. People on the outside see the results of his leadership and tell me, “He’s made a difference.” He has been in this position for nearly six years, and in his mid 40’s, he could work two more decades. As his professional coach, I asked, “What’s next?”

We explored the question and discovered a pattern: when we start something new (maybe a job, or a relationship, or a school), an early focus is SECURITY. Then, we move on to RULES or POLICIES, and from there we form PATTERNS that lead to TRADITIONS. We increase confidence, which allows for CREATIVITY. When these are in place, we think about LEGACY - what we are leaving behind for the organization and the people we serve.

LEGACY is healthy. It focuses on a good that endures. A question is, “How long can a leader continue to form new patterns, build upon traditions, and encourage creativity to keep up with changing technologies, new connections, and keep an innovative edge?” There is no single answer, but a good leader will learn to ride the crest of the wave between creativity and legacy for a long time, or he or she may decide to make a change, or even move on, to keep the creative juices flowing. A leader once shared with me that we are never standing still. Either we are progressing or regressing. The legacy stage can be a signal for a leader to reflect deeply on what to do next.

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