Legacy & Leadership

pyramid-chart-art-750Legacy can be a test of leadership.

By M. Anthony Sacco (Stratalyne Business Solutions LLC)

In the final chapter of John C. Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, as seems appropriate, is a keystone concept.  In it, he addresses the “Law of Legacy” or, as some would call it, “succession”.  At the outset, I’d like to recognize that, some “leaders”, might feel they can skip this chapter (along perhaps with several others).  This being because they feel they have arrived. Now in the “leadership seat”, they have paid their dues getting there,  and having attained the position, have proved themselves fully qualified leaders, in no need of any further education about their role and responsibilities.  In other words, they’ve crossed the finish line (that they imagined) drawn at the door of their comfortable corner office.  So now, after getting that said, here are my thoughts about this important leadership topic.

Ultimately, great organizational leadership creates sustainable value, and develops those who would be the future leaders, who will accept the stewardship of that future value.  This is made possible because a great leader sacrifices for the good of the organization, is always planning for a strategically successful future, accepts responsibility to mentor future leadership through direct and indirect means, and does not believe that position ever somehow mysteriously bestows upon anyone the qualities of leadership.  Also, a great leader values and fosters the process of learning and growth, within the fabric of the entity, for the entire organization, thereby providing development of leaders to be ready, when it comes, for succession.

So, what have we identified as characteristics of leadership that are relevant to its succession?  A great leader:

  • Accepts sacrifice(s) to provide for future leadership.
  • Plans for sustainable success well beyond their tenure.
  • Acts as a mentor through teaching, advice, and as a role model.
  • Accepts their rightful responsibility for successes and failures.
  • Believes in demonstrated leadership being non-positional.
  • Fosters a culture of learning and growth for the entire organization.
  • Accepts responsibility for the long-term stewardship of the organization.
  • Practices objective self-awareness of contribution value to the organization.

Therefore, I feel, the planning for sustainable leadership beyond oneself tests many of the core qualities of leadership.

So, how does this facet of great leadership reflect in you and others who are the leaders in your organization?  Is the culture of your organization strategically aligned to sustainable success?  Is leadership recognized when it is exhibited and is it celebrated? How does recognition of the need for succession gain visibility as a best practice and become a cultural norm?


The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell, J. C., Thomas Nelson, 2007

“A CEO’s Personality Can Undermine Succession Planning”, Dattner & Chamorro-Premuzic, HBR.org, September, 2016

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