4 Leadership Milestones to Become a Great Leader

by Guy Hatcher

I am amazed at how little time many leaders spend thinking about their legacy. It seldom enters their mind as to what they will pass forward or transition to the next organization and the people they serve and influence. Legacy is determined neither by one’s age nor the years they have served an organization. Legacy represents the foundational core from which everything else flows over the course of time; wisdom, values, industry knowledge, innovative thought, individual growth, and opportunity taken, both from the inside and outside of an organization. Legacy is established and grown through each new step of your journey, idea tested, risk taken, and every time you empower others to step out of their comfort zone and successfully complete a challenging task.

We tend to think legacy has more to do with the end of life than it does with our career journey throughout the course of our lives. Leadership and legacy are not defined at the end of one’s career but rather through the defining moments both positive and negative that occur throughout the seasons of one’s career. Leadership is an ever evolving process of self-discovery that shapes and drives the trajectory of not only your career but the careers and lives of others. Leadership entails understanding the opportunity you have to make a lasting impact in and on the lives of others. It is a continual process of mastering the fundamental building blocks from which you define, establish and communicate your legacy.   

There are four legacy milestones that shape the overall influence of one’s leadership trajectory.

1.  Great Leaders know their identity and define their values.
You must know who you are as an individual and who/what you want to represent to those in your circle of influence through your actions and decisions. Determine what the values and beliefs are that influence the manner in which you lead. Do you lead from a position of authenticity, trustworthiness, and safety?  

Great leaders know who they are and are confident in their own skin. They stand firmly upon their determined values. Great leaders are more concerned with the difference they are making in the lives of others than they are championing their own causes or self-worth. 

2.  Great Leaders lead from a posture of courage
Leaders are willing to step out with courage and make the difficult decisions. This may mean a willingness to take calculated risks. The ability to see opportunity and “jump on it” often times requires courage. Great leaders also demonstrate courage through patience and restraint. Sometimes acting too quickly and failing to look at all angles of a situation can create greater issues. Great leaders never have to sacrifice integrity, character, or reputation to seal “a great deal.”   

Leaders who act with courage and integrity build and pass forward legacies that change the world and impact present and future generations.

3.  Great Leaders are others focused
Great leaders are servant leaders. They care most about the individuals they serve. They take time to understand their goals, encourage their talents, and ignite their passions. In your place of leadership do you know what drives and motivates the individuals in your sphere of influence? Every leader should be developing at least one great leader. The mark of a successful leader is seen through the emergence concept of leadership. Are you coaching and mentoring emergent leaders? Great leaders are not just born they are developed and taught.

Great leaders care more about earning the respect of others than they do championing their own reflection.  Legacy leaders understand the mindset of significance. When their desire to make a significant impact in the lives of others becomes their driving force they change the trajectory of lives.

4.  Great Leaders do what others don’t
The mark of great leadership is when the personalities, styles, and attitudes of the leadership within an organization begin to reflect the image of the Leader at the top. Memorable leaders are unique in that their presence and sense of identity and values stand above what is status quo. They motivate and empower their employees in ways others don’t. They are more concerned with growing great leaders than they are with promoting their own agendas. Great leaders understand the importance of others; they recognize that every person in their organization matters.

As a leader, former President Ronald Reagan personified these four legacy milestones when he spoke in West Berlin on June 12, 1987. This courageous speech defined Reagan’s political legacy. “We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it's our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom. But I must confess, we're drawn here by other things as well: by the feeling of history in this city, more than 500 years older than our own nation; by the beauty of the Grunewald and the Tiergarten; most of all, by your courage and determination. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Reagan’s decision to stand with courage represented a call to the people of Germany to awaken. Those four words moved the world and changed the course of history. 

Years later after the Presidents death, Nancy Reagan was asked if the President had ever remarked that it was the people of Berlin, not General Secretary Gorbachev, who had perhaps torn down the Berlin Wall? Mrs. Reagan replied. "Oh yes, Ronnie always felt it happened because the people made it happen, and he was happy to have helped them in any way possible."

A legacy-driven mindset inspires, empowers, motivates, and raises-up great leaders. The mindset with which you choose to lead is your choice. Choose today, to move forward with the mindset of a great legacy leader.

Guy Hatcher: The Legacy Guy® – is passionate about helping families plan their legacy. His book, Your Future Reflection: How to Leave a Legacy Beyond Money, is available at amazon.com. Follow him on twitter @guyhatcher or contact him at www.guyhatcher.com.