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Build Your Legacy By Lifting Up Your Team

leadership transition Feb 08, 2024

- By Sophie Pinkoski

Coming to the end of their tenure, many leaders reflect on the legacy they want to leave behind. But contrary to what one may expect, building a legacy isn’t a task reserved for the twilight of a leader’s career; it’s a journey that begins the moment they first step into a leadership role.

To build a meaningful legacy, start by defining who you are and what is most important to you. A leader’s legacy will naturally stem from this branding as they assert the purpose, vision, and values they wish to bring to the organization.

Leaving behind a legacy means being part of something bigger, something that transcends you as an individual.

If this sounds ambitious, there’s a reason: a leader’s legacy isn’t meant to be a solo endeavor. Ultimately, legacy is determined by the positive impact left on the people being led, leaving the organization and its people better off than when its leader started. A leader’s legacy is only as strong as the people they empower.

So how can a leader align their team to ensure the legacy left behind is a powerful one?

Transfer knowledge and develop the team’s talents–– A key element of creating a lasting legacy is what the leader passes on to future generations. Coaching and mentoring new and younger team members in particular helps build their skills, simultaneously closing knowledge gaps and eliminating blind spots within your organization. Put careful thought into development plans for key individuals to feel confident in their capacities after you leave. Pass on any intangible assets, such as information you wouldn’t necessarily think to write down pertaining to day-to-day operations. Involve individuals in your long-term projects to ensure anything unfinished is in good hands after you leave. Remember, no one can give what they don’t have.

Pour the best of yourself into your team so they can pour the best of themselves into future generations.

Be active in your own transition process–– Unlike other roles, outgoing leaders require an extensive transition period ––typically 18 to 24 months–– to prepare the organization for their departure. This means it's important for leaders to stay engaged in the role. In the final period, the leader's focus often changes to mentorship and handover rather than direct leadership. Reducing responsibilities during the transition can be an emotional time for the leader. This shift may feel like a loss. Honour that journey and realign your mindset to see it as a new challenge.

The transition process is another opportunity to strategically plan your legacy.

Many retiring leaders begin thinking about goals they have yet to achieve within their organization. Narrow down the last of your goals to what will make the biggest impact on your organization and the community it serves. What is most achievable with your remaining time and what can you set up for your team continue when you’ve gone? Laying this groundwork for a legacy won’t be perfect– there are many things out of a leader’s control, including barriers to achieving your goals and managing other people’s agendas and motivations. Aim for excellence instead of perfection by making it as easy as possible for your team to carry out your legacy with a clear vision and goals they can take forward.

Build your organization’s resilience to face the future–– Part of leaving behind an impactful legacy is bolstering the organization’s resilience. Don’t just think about where your organization has been–– think about where it’s going as well.

A leader’s lasting value will be measured by how well the organization does after their departure.

Consider how you can help move the organization forward to give them a competitive advantage. A thriving organization successfully evolves with the changes in the landscape and adapts to advancements. Help strengthen your organization’s long-term resilience by giving your team the tools to turn vision into a reality. After all, they will be the ones to pass on your legacy to future generations.

As a retiring leader, legacy is not just about what is achieved during tenure, but also about the lasting impact left behind. Build a foundation for future success, empowering your team, and ensuring the organization thrives long after you’re gone. By investing in your people, setting clear goals, and fostering a culture excellence, you can leave behind a legacy that truly makes a difference.


Further Reading

Want to Leave a Lasting Legacy? Read This. Entrepreneur

When CEO Retirement is on the Horizon, RHR

Building a Legacy: How to Help Your Employees Retire with Lasting Impact, Energize Leadership

How To Leave A Legacy Where You Work, Forbes

Leaving a Legacy—For Your Company, Your Team, and Yourself, Deloitte

Creating A Legacy That Matters, Chief Executive


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