Sunday, June 14, 2009

What is your legacy as a leader?

Having been inspired by Alan Webbers book I am going to ask you a question from Rule 41.

The rule chapter title is;


The chapter includes a section about what legacy a leader leaves behind. This fascinates me.

Alan features Michael Abrashoff, the charismatic captain of the USS Benfold who apparently has a simple question he asks business leaders based on his own experience as leader in the US Navy.

Mr Abrashoff’s question: "When you leave your job – how do you want your troops to remember you?"

So its over to Simplicity readers – You are all leaders. I’d love to hear your answers - how do you want your 'troops' to remember you?


Dan Gunter said...


I am reminded of the time Barbara Walters interviewed Normal Schwarzkopf. She asked him what he wanted written on his tombstone. With little hesitation, he said "A good soldier who loved his family and served his country."

Schwarzkopf "gets" the essence of leadership. It's not about being famous or rich. It's all about what you leave behind. The old adage about "The real test of a manager is not how things go when you're there, but how they go when you're NOT there" is so very true. The same goes for when you depart for good.

If today were your last day on the job, would your legacy be a trail of positive contributions and change? If not, it's time for some serious soul-searching.

Marilyn Jess said...


I believe in building, instead of burning, bridges. Even when I've left a job I wasn't happy doing, I want those I left behind to remember me as a skilled professional who cared about them. remember my smile. I am known for that.

Dan Gunter said...


You are bringing about memories of when I left a hospital CQI/RM job to go independent. Part of the reason I left was because I felt like a lot of people weren't taking the work I was doing seriously. Within a couple of weeks of my departure, I got a call from them asking me to come back and consult for them. The call included a genuine, heartfelt apology from the hospital administrator. It was at that moment that I realized that I had at least left something positive behind.

To be honest, no amount of money could have approached the way that call and that request made me feel. I suppose I already felt the same desire you describe, but that was certainly THE occasion that burned it into the more conscious-functioning portions of my mind.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Dan and Marilyn - more fabulous learning for me from people who have 'been there and done it'

Dan Gunter said...


I might not still be there "doing it" like I was in the past, but a big part of my heart always will be. My passion for health care quality is probably the single strongest driving force I've ever felt in terms of work. It was far more than just "work"... it was a true calling. I don't mean to brag, but I was damn good at it. Not because I was any sort of genius, but because it actually meant something to me.

To this day I will call up a hospital administrator or CQI person and (politely) jump on my soapbox when I see poor quality of care. Most of the nurses who recognize my face probably cringe when they see me in the hallways of the hospitals. LOL. Not that I was mean (I wasn't at all.) But to this day I can not and will not simply turn a deaf ear or blind eye to sloppy care or indifference.

To me, quality health care is something that gets in your heart -- THEN it gets in your blood!

Dave Wheeler said...


The legacy I would like to leave behind as a leader is one a group of folks I had the privileged to lead gave me when I left and moved on to a new position. It was a plaque with the Lao Tzu quote "A leader is best when people barely knows they exist.When his aim is done. his work fulfilled, they will say "We did it ourselves"."

That meant a great deal to me and still does to this day.

Dan Gunter said...


An Excellent legacy indeed! And that Lao Tzu quote is the one I always thought to be the perfect companion to "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him HOW to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." That's my philosophy about consulting and training, meaning I don't want to make a client dependent on me -- instead, I want to help them prepare to accomplish bigger and better things for themselves.

J.KANNAN said...

Dear Trevor,

After reading your article as well the inputs by Dave and Dan and again by you, I am prompted and inspired to read the book "Rules of Thumb"- In fact I told Sriram to buy one so that, I could share it with him.

A very good question by Michael Abrashoff- A Captain(Obviously got to be a Leader). There is a speciality in defense forces for learning and grooming leadership ( This is my opinion as I had experienced it, being in Indian Air Force).

The Troop must and will remember its Leader in all fairness and keeping in mind the good aspects of the captain, also keeping in mind the circumstances at the call of duty- The members of the troop must think of one fact that every one can not be a captain and if every one becomes a captain where will be the troop to lead.?

And a leader to be remembered in finer aspects by the troop, should possess:-

"Optimism is one quality more associated with the success of a Leader."

"Learn from the mistake of your team members, as you can't live that long enough to make them all by yourself."

"For a leader ambition should be the path of success and persistence the vehicle he travels."

" A Leader must have a theme,a goal, a purpose in his mission- mould the goals in such a methodical and fine way-that when a leader pass away, many will say and whisper "HE CARED FOR ME"

"Successful leaders are influenced by desire for pleasing results, unlike other for pleasing methods.

Thank you Trevor for the opportunity given to express my views.


Tim Blair said...

"Where there is truth, there is trust." This is my life motto as a person and as a leader. Trust is the currency of leadership and every deposit of truth increases the value of your trust account.

Thanks for asking this question Trevor, it is a great reminder that great leadership is intentional.


Trevor Gay said...

Dan - you are still ‘there’ in your thoughts and in your head. You are exceptionally well qualified! :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dave
Your folks knew they had been touched by a great leader my friend – I’ve known you a year or two now and I can quite understand why they would do that.
I’ve used the full Lao Tsu quote on my Blog and I love it:
Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build with what they have

But with the best leaders
When the work is done
The task accomplished
The people will say
”We have done this ourselves.”

Lao Tsu (700 BC)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi JK - You will enjoy Alan Webbers book – of that I am sure. Your words provide a great framework for any aspiring leader. Some of the people I have worked for in my career fulfil all your criteria I am happy to say.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Tim – what a great quote – “Where there is truth, there is trust” - thank you for sharing that one – I will steal it now and use it – crediting you of course :- )

What a great shame so many of our current crop of politicians cannot live up to that statement.

My good friend Brian Ward in Edmonton, Canada of Affinity Consulting uses a brilliant and simple expression ‘Leadership is a decision”

J.KANNAN said...

I gracefully "Thank you" for your great words of inspiration and motivation- The Finer qualities of a True Leader.


Trevor Gay said...

Hi JK - I assure you the feelings are mutual Sir!