These days the
press is full of evidence that business needs a “new leader in town”;
not the traditional-style command and control leader, but one who
uses the full talents of every person in order to compete in our
global business world.
We’ve been coaching
and working with leaders for years, have listened to the challenges,
observed the successes, and compared what we’ve noticed against
textbook descriptions. We’ve found there’s no shortage of data and
information about competencies, techniques, and proficiencies—witness
the bookshelves full of leadership tomes.
What we couldn’t
find—what’s missing—is a comprehensive model to describe who great
leaders really are and how they create great organizations that
live beyond their time. Over the last decade, we set out to determine
if such a model could be created.
We studied the
outcomes of current and emerging leader development in various areas
using both conventional and cutting-edge techniques. We zeroed in
on specific areas like visioning and direction, performance that
affects the bottom line, and collaborative innovation.
We asked, “What
do leaders do in order to have profitable organizations, attract
and retain qualified loyal workers and customers, and find personal
fulfillment in the process?” We did research to determine the characteristics
that make up the best leaders in today’s knowledge-based economy.
We looked to see what their principles and values of operation were
and how they are standing the test of time in the face of an ever-changing,
increasingly chaotic world. When we put the key competencies together,
we found a compelling and comprehensive model that addresses all
areas of leader behavior.
We found that
strong leaders have two foundational beliefs in common:
are interested in leaving a legacy, but not one of things like buildings
and foundations, ideas or social change; rather a legacy of people
nurtured and developed as succeeding leaders who can take the organization
to the next level.
are committed to sharing their experience and transferring their
learning to the leaders of the future by playing a developmental
role beyond that of mentor.
we found in these leaders are the abilities to:
Hold a vision and direction with associated values and ethics.
Create highly collaborative
and innovative groups of workers and customers.
Inspire others to action even
to the degree that others outpace them.
Advocate for differences in
people, in their strengths, perspectives, and communities.
Calibrate expected outcomes
and get the desired results while fostering an environment of learning
and performance agility.
appears to be quite an extensive and perhaps difficult list, in
practice it is simple yet elegant, easily integrated into current
practices, and immediately applicable to everything the leader faces,
in both good times and bad. The system of these best practices offers
both learners and practitioners of the art of leadership a comprehensive
group of behaviors that draw from the best of all that we know about
the art of leadership. We call it Legacy Leadership.
Our Concept of Legacy
definitions of legacy characterize it as a "something"—whether
a financial gift, the advancement of an idea, or a contribution
to social change. Legacy Leaders characterize the idea quite differently.
Their definition refers to the difference they make today with the people in their lives and
in their organizations—someone rather than something.
They believe that the greatest way to affect the long-term success
of their organization is to nurture and develop its future leaders
and to model what they believe will serve the organization in the
long term—hence the role of leader as learner and teacher in the
Legacy Leadership model.
of the model is the leader as a lifelong learner—a teacher—and by
being so, models and instills such a foundation in others that builds
a personal legacy. Who can forget that favorite teacher, mentor,
or leader whom you willingly followed and emulated? That’s the kind
of leader loyal employees are looking for; one who grows people
to be their best so those individuals foster learning in others
Leader as Learner
have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and wisdom. They are always
tuned in to new learning and are flexible enough to “unlearn” when
necessary. Every event and conversation is an opportunity for learning,
both professionally and personally. Basic optimism is at the heart
of this leader, who faces even the toughest of times as having potential
for the positive. Further, this “learning leader” gathers new information
and learning from those who follow, is never afraid to say “I don’t
know,” and creates a learning environment everywhere he or she is
Leader as Teacher
For Legacy Leaders,
learning is most powerful when shared. The laboratory for teaching
is in the people who follow. As the old saying goes, “Learn it once
and teach it to learn it twice.” Legacy Leaders eagerly pass along
tried and true methods as well as new learning. They are ecstatic
when that information or method is then passed along to others.
Leader as Legacy Builder
The legacy resides
in being both a learner and a teacher. The Legacy Leader is committed
to having at least a three-generational thumbprint, building leaders
who build leaders who build leaders. The real legacy grows exponentially
every day. The focus of leadership is on the people who actually
carry through and make the organization successful. The success
then is only as good as the leader’s ability to build the human
capital to be their best. The motto for this kind of leader is,
“Live your legacy now. Let it reside in the people.”
We found that
leaders exhibit five distinct competencies in being a learner, teacher,
and legacy builder. We call them the Five Best Practices of Legacy
Best Practice 1 — Holder of Vision and Values
the direction (vision) and determine how (values and guiding principles)
the organization will work to reach the goals. They know what future
success looks like and hold the space for it to happen until others
can walk into that space. As a map leads to a destination and allows
you to know your progress at any given time, the leader takes a
stand for both the vision and values, develops strategy around it,
and measures all decisions and actions against it. The legacy of
this is that leaders communicate the vision and values throughout
the organization, asking their direct reports to translate the vision
and guiding principles for each unique work unit. Each person across
the organization ultimately knows his or her exact and unique contribution
to the total effort. This, in effect, has each of them hold the
vision and values as well. The legacy resides in them.
establishes direction and gains commitment. Critical success skills
in this practice are (1) developing a vision and a set of values
(2) developing and executing a strategy and (3) gaining commitment
Best Practice 2 — Creator of Collaboration and Innovation
One of the biggest
gaps in business today is having a trusting environment where synergy
of ideas can bubble up. Rather than making edicts from on high,
the Legacy Leader creates an environment that facilitates trust
and collaboration. As that occurs, the leader also gathers together
people with differing perspectives, talents, gifts, and attitudes
for the purpose of creating something bigger, better and more significant
than any one of them could have done alone. Then, and only then,
can true innovation happen. This legacy develops groups who leverage
the greater good for the organization as a whole.
creates an environment of highest quality working relationships.
The critical success skills are (1) establish trust, (2) masterfully
listen and facilitate, (3) gather perspectives and ask tough questions,
and (4) discern a need for change.
Best Practice 3 — Influencer of Inspiration and Leadership
fosters inspiration and builds strong relationships. Legacy Leaders
have a very positive influence on their followers. Whether in the
best or worst of times, people want to have hope and inspiration
to stay the course. Leaders frame everything they do into learning
opportunities, including discussion of mistakes, risks, and decisions.
Leaders also focus more on people than on anything else and encourage
them to grow and develop to new levels of achievement. This legacy
ensures that everyone in the organization learns to do what the
focus on the heart of individuals and their relationship with the
leader. Critical success skills for this best practice are (1) high
levels of emotional intelligence in order to connect easily with
people, (2) ability to recognize, acknowledge, and inspire others,
(3) placing emphasis on developing leaders throughout the organization,
and (4) being humble with a fierce resolve to accomplish the goals
of the organization.
Best Practice 4 — Advocator of Differences and Community
Because the leader
wants the best talent possible, he or she will bring in people of
diverse experiences and backgrounds. This practice helps participants
go beyond the standard diversity issues, although those are very
important. Here we look for the best talent possible, where the
right people are in the right jobs, and where everyone works from
their individual strengths. The leader gathers these diverse perspectives
and creates a community to achieve positive results for the organization.
To accomplish this, each level of leadership must know their people
inside and out in order to use their talents and draw out the best
from them. The legacy appears from developing maximum strength from
everyone in the organization and using each individual’s talents
and perspectives to the fullest level of participation.
enhances distinction and inclusion. Simultaneously, the leader focuses
on unique differences and on including all of the differences in
order to create an outcome that goes beyond what any one person
would have created alone. Critical success skills here are (1) ability
to advocate for people and practices, (2) ability to recognize strengths,
(3) recognizing and participating in community building, and (4)
the ability to promote an inclusive environment that unites towards
a common focus.
Best Practice 5 — Calibrator of Responsibilities and
A Legacy Leader
constantly measures everything done against the prevailing vision
and values, which we call calibration. We encourage leaders to have
a certain level of performance and strategic agility so they can
be flexible in a chaotic environment. They stay on track by making
mid-course corrections that allow the outcomes to be even better
than expected. The leader executes against the strategic plan and
knows, at any given time, the present status and projections.
this execution against plan, the leader must evoke each individual’s
top level of performance. They make tough decisions about people,
strategy, and organizational accomplishments and focus on minimizing
any negative impact. The legacy is that, in the everyday workplace,
people learn to be accountable, to fulfill their responsibilities
as well as to contribute to the bottom-line results of the organization.
focuses on execution and performance. The critical success skills
are the (1) ability to execute and implement the organizational
strategy, (2) vigilance of progress toward goals and direction,
(3) ability to gain commitment for top performance, and (4) constant
awareness of trends in order to adapt to change and recalibrate
Legacy Leadership in Action
We were hired
by a leadership team to help them have more successful, efficient,
and effective meetings. We used all the skill building of Best Practice
2: Creator of Collaboration and Innovation. We helped them measure
their level of trust with each other, discover how they wanted to
work together, and how to make better decisions. We encouraged them
to ask each other tough questions that no one had been willing to
ask and assisted them in listening fully to and learning from one
another. They developed their own meeting model and began to hone
their facilitation skills to foster collaboration.
The team began
to use their new tools immediately. When they were together as a
unit, they practiced and built their skills. The team became an
effective, collaborative unit, gathering the best of their individual
talents for the outcomes of each discussion. With just these simple
tools, they accomplished more than they had anticipated. Then we
described the four other practices they could develop for a comprehensive
model of leadership, with each piece being immediately applicable.
The overall results were dramatic. They made decisions more effectively
and no one lobbied for change after the fact. Great confidence grew
in the abilities of the group to be more innovative. Their competitive
advantage grew, even through a short downturn in their industry.
They are currently alive and thriving.
Building on What Works
also told us that they needed an approach that would build on what
was already working well. They did not want to start all over again
with other initiatives as many companies have done. We agreed that
it was better to build rather than deconstruct. We did make them
aware; however, that they may need to do some “unlearning” in order
to shift to a more effective approach.
leader, recently promoted from being a technical manager, had been
using a solution-oriented technique that worked very well. As she
continued to learn about leadership in her new position, she found
that she had to develop many new skills beyond trouble-shooting
and problem-resolution. As she learned about the five practice areas,
she began to integrate her solution skills into all five practices,
and immediately felt familiar in those new areas.
a model to make learning as simple, yet as powerful, as possible.
Adding new learning to the old wisdom allows leaders to start from
familiar territory and build on what works. This leader becomes
the person to seek out for direction, collaboration, inspiration,
inclusion, and accountability. The leader simultaneously teaches
others to solve problems in a proactive, rather than reactive, way.
A Structure That Holds All the Parts
a model that provides a structure and direction for everything they
do. When we begin working with leaders, we help them identify the
competency area(s) needing an upgrade. They want guidance in such
development areas as big-picture thought leadership, masterful facilitation,
or building a business case for decision-making. All of these fit
within one of the five practices and, like facets of a diamond,
go together to make a beautiful gem.
team wanted to determine the leadership practices they should use
to measure their executive performance. They had a laundry list
of some 20 factors that would make a good leader within that company.
The list included: performance agility, developing subordinates,
getting results, and strengthening customer relationships. These
20 factors then became the measurements of a 360-degree feedback
process. In delivering the feedback, we found that each of the executives
could understand the individual factors, but couldn’t see how they
would all work together for overall better leadership. After we
did an overlay comparison of their competencies with our Five Best
Practices model, they began to see their leadership as an all-encompassing
practice rather than as individual parts. Not only that, but they
found there were some gaps—missing competencies—that needed to be
added to the equation of true leadership. They found our model gave
them a complete picture of the desired leadership. Because they
saw the larger picture of leadership, they surpassed their own goals
of performance. The magical moment came when they discovered that
they could simultaneously increase the level of performance in their
Comprehensive and Compelling
a system that serves them in both the best and worst of times. Business
today demands a more holistic approach and leaders now must do so
much more than merely cast a vision and get results. Our model covers
all the major contingencies. Those leaders, who only have one or
two of the competencies, have major gaps in their abilities. The
charismatic, inspirational leader may be good for public presence
and relationship building, but not good with vision casting and
executing to plan. The visionary leader may not be good at holding
people accountable or creating a culture of trust and collaboration.
The command and control leader may not be good at being without
the right answer or respecting diverse viewpoints that build better
answers. Our model continues to help leaders be well rounded, balanced
in approach, and surrounded with similarly gifted leadership peers.
We worked with
the president of a turnaround company who could rally the troops
successfully. Although all his employees loved him personally, they
needed him to be more than a dynamic leader. His board needed him
to cast a vision and hold people accountable for executing against
the strategy. In a difficult time, needing to turn declining profits
around while not losing competitive advantage, he still could not
make the tough decisions that impacted people negatively. He was
loyal to his people, ultimately at their expense. Once we helped
him to identify and shore up critical gaps in his skill set, he
was able to communicate his plan, get commitment, and get the turnaround
done. They stopped the “bleeding” in profits in the first year,
and the year after saw a dramatic increase in profits.
If you’ve ever
had leadership training only to return and find that your learning
didn’t translate to others, you know the sad feeling of having invested
time and money only to have the knowledge not be transferable. Good
ideas are sometimes just like that, with no way to replicate the
idea, yourself, or what you’ve learned. With Legacy Leadership,
the direct reports can replicate everything, and in turn, those
direct reports transfer legacy leadership to their direct reports.
Our model provides
a process to measure and predict the impact of simple changes. It
includes steps to outline what action to take, and what differences
can be expected, with their related impact on the bottom line. Rarely
do we find leaders who can predict the observable and measurable
behavioral differences that a shift would effect, or, just as importantly,
the impact that shifts would make on the organization as a whole.
Using our process is easy because it has the leaders focus on the
different pieces necessary to make such decisions and go forward
with a plan, knowing that it will likely get the desired results.
Every leader who uses our model can hardly wait to share such a
simple process, particularly the best practice that worked for them.
That’s replication at its best.
Leadership develops other leaders, everything that we have leaders
do is replicable in a similar process or procedure. Accountability
for their own leadership is enhanced in this way. We find that the
leadership processes begin to quickly filter through the organization,
so that ultimately the entire culture is touched. When leaders understand
that replication of effective processes in others is easier than
other methods to equip the troops for success, they are able to
see their legacy alive and well every day. Even when the leader
is absent, the processes continue to work.
Taking Action Now
If you’re leader
today, it’s likely that you actively study the art of leadership
or that you are looking for those tips, tools, and techniques to
constantly upgrade your own leadership abilities. We encourage you
to use the 5 Best Practices in your work. We use them with our clients
and in our own organization each day. We actively test, modify,
and continually seek those practices and models that use our strengths
to maximize our work with others while building our own company
for profitability with a legacy in real time. We want to build those
strengths and maximize the talents of other leaders with something
easily transferable. We want to replicate our leadership, but not
clone ourselves. We have found that the model is comprehensive,
yet flexible enough to allow for all styles, types, and perspectives
of leaders to contribute the best of their unique talents. As leaders
ourselves, we want to emphasize leaders as learners, leaders as
teachers, and leaders as builders of legacy.
So our challenge
for you is this—how can you apply the best practices of Legacy Leadership
in your own arena? We look forward to hearing how it goes.
Dr. Jeannine Sandstrom, CEO and founder of CoachWorks International, Inc.
is an internationally known Executive Leader Coach. For over 20
years, clients have recognized her as a valued resource in accelerating
their leadership development and organizational effectiveness. Her
mission as a “possibility generator” is to unlock the leader potential
so that they make a positive difference in the lives of others while
creating organizations with sustained vitality. You can reach her
directly at email@example.com.
Dr. Lee Smith, Executive Leader Coach,
is President of CoachWorks
International, Inc. headquartered in Dallas, Texas. She is considered
a pioneer in the coaching profession and her primary work is in
the area of equipping leaders for high levels of performance, both
today and in the future. Smith’s mission is to serve as a partner
with leaders who want to transform their leadership abilities to
Legacy Leadership and bridge the gap between professional achievement
and personal significance. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The authors would like to thank Karen
Wright and Marcia Conner for their time and attention on this article.
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