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How’s that leadership legacy coming along?

4 min read


The way you treat others tells us more about your values than anything you proclaim. Your every plan, decision, and action — at home, at work, and in your community — create your leadership legacy.

Allow me a tangential path for a moment. I attended a book marketing workshop a few weeks ago. Surrounded by successful thought leaders, authors and aspiring authors, the weekend was packed with relevant, actionable marketing ideas.

One speaker focused on one’s personal brand and how social media and web search has drastically impacted personal branding. She said, “Your brand is whatever Google says it is.” (If you’re a Bing user, insert that search engine name!)

I wholeheartedly believe this. Web search engines reveal what interested parties (who are current or potential customers or employees) are searching for. In addition, search engines present what their algorithms reveal about who we are and what we (or our products and services) do.

This comment caused most of the workshop attendees to, in that moment, jump onto our laptops, smartphones or tablets, start up our favorite search engine, and “Google” ourselves. The results are insightful (here are my Bing results).

If you don’t agree with what search engines say about you and your products or services, you must change the building blocks (your Web presence, your brand messaging, etc.) so that, over time, your online personal brand is more aligned with your intentions.

By tweaking the speaker’s brand comment, we reveal a core truth about influencing others: “Your leadership legacy is whatever your employees say it is.”

Your employees are your primary customer. What they experience, day to day, during interactions with you, creates their perceptions of how effective and caring a leader you are.

You may have a personal purpose or mission statement that outlines how you intend to lead others. It may state that you value relationships, that you listen and honor others’ ideas, or that you help employees develop into future leaders for your organization.

You may have a list of values that you strive to demonstrate daily with employees. You might proclaim that you aim to be honest, to act with integrity, to encourage teamwork, or similar values.

Your intentions are honorable. However, employees’ perceptions are reality.

To ensure a powerful, positive leadership legacy, you must engage in regular, honest dialog with employees about how they perceive you. Listen; don’t defend. Then, refine any plans, decisions and actions that inhibit your positive legacy.

Here are some examples of how leaders are perceived by employees. Responses to my global Performance-Values Assessment show that leaders are not leaving a positive leadership legacy. For example:

  • Only about 30% (of over 350 respondents) agree or strongly agree that their boss provides them with effective performance coaching. That means that roughly 70% of respondents do not receive effective performance coaching from their boss.
  • 44% believe that their boss provides praise regularly for effort as well as accomplishment. That means that 56% do not receive praise regularly from their boss for effort as well as accomplishment.
  • 61% believe that their boss is honest in his or her dealings with the respondent. Therefore, 39% believe their boss is dishonest in his or her dealings with the respondent.

What’s the condition of your leadership legacy, right now? There is an easy way to find out: ask your employees. Honor their responses. Refine your behavior. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

What would employees say is an area for growth for you regarding a positive leadership legacy? What did your best boss do to create a positive leadership legacy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE SURVEY: What is it like to work in your company culture? Contribute your experiences in my fast, free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on the research page of my blog site: Driving Results Through Culture.

Podcast – Listen to this post now with the player below. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes. The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

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