What Impact Will You Have?

While being deliberate about your leadership presence, how will you pitch up on the “conductor’s podium”; the version of your authentic self that stands in leadership shoes, the leader needs to think about his/her impact. We always have an impact on people and the world around us, whether we pay attention to it or not. Ultimately, we are all responsible for the impact we have and need to be deliberate about the impact we would like to have.

The more senior the leader, the more people are impacted, and it is a core responsibility of leadership to get it right.

A leader’s impact is what is remembered when he leaves the room. There are two types of impact – the leader can leave a mark or a legacy. A mark is a brief small impact, and a legacy is an impact that will outlive the leader. “There is a difference between making a mark and leaving a legacy.   When you make a mark, it means that you may have done something great, but not necessarily something that is of everlasting significance.  Legacy building is when the mark you created continues to grow and foster; where the people respect the legacy enough to sustain it.  Legacy becomes an embedded part of the organization, its culture, brand, and history.”

The lasting impact that becomes a legacy is probably best explained with a story. I had the privilege to get to know a leader who was known throughout his career for being a gentleman and a scholar, and a strong decisive leader with a very mild manner. Before I got to know him, I was always curious about what it was that made him so special, why does he have a fanbase of hundreds that I know of, in an industry fraught with patronizing arrogance, inept leadership and fear-based coercion. I clearly remember a conversation with colleagues lamenting the woes and misery of working under a different leader who was a very toxic sociopath. (He also left a legacy for sure – a very dark and bitter one though).  Back to the story – many were reminiscing of a time when ‘Ted’ was in charge, it was a time when the culture was pleasant, the organization was thriving, it had a good reputation. It appeared that he touched the lives of many with a positive impact.

I met him after he retired at an extended friend’s and family do. In that conversation and many others, he would always answer a question with a story, sometimes he was the hero in the story, and sometimes it is quite self-deprecating. From our friendship, I gleaned some insights into a leaving a legacy impact, a very positive legacy impact:

  1. It is about how you interact with people that makes the difference. “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
  • Humility is a superpower. Humility is magnetic, it makes leaders approachable. Humility makes space for influence, in the absence of humility, a leader may have to resort to power. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis
  • And the last thought for today, lead with storytelling. Answering a question with a story allows the listener into your life, and your authentic self , and to build a connection. It also allows others to interpret the events through their own lens and apply the wisdom in their own context – in other words, stories empower the listener to grow.

“Legacy leavers operate in ways that build trust and transform lives. They tend to be concerned with the greater good.” (Forbes)

Great leaders leave legacies because they understand their impact on everyone in their circle of influence. It is an important part of their leadership practice to nurture relationships and accomplish a memorable outcome that will impact the organization and its ecosystem for a long time after they leave the role.