To me, leaving a legacy isn’t about how large or how small your name becomes. It isn’t about being the CEO or everyone knowing you. IT really isn’t even about being a legend, which is what I associate the word legacy with somehow. You see, to me, leaving a legacy is about making a difference in the lives of the people around you for the positive. I see three main things that can be done to achieve this. Leading by example or with integrity, being there for people when they have a problem, and treating everyone like they are on the same level as I am are three very simple actions that I think are essential to leaving a legacy that matters.
I know, leading by example is so clichéd and EVERYONE says it. But does anyone ever look into it? Or is it just kind of the good thing to say? How do you lead by example in the work place where everyone has a million very different jobs and you never really see anyone for more than 30 minutes at a time in the meeting room? In my mind leading by example has always kind of been a cryptogram that really meant lead with integrity. Because if John Doe that works out in some plant only sees you for 45 minutes every week he doesn’t have much to judge you by other than those 45 minutes. So in those 45 minutes your job is to show him you are getting your job done AND doing it in the right way. This means no shortcuts, no cheat codes, no under the table deals, just hard work. Where I work people are always saying work smart not hard. I half way believe in that. But it makes more sense to do both. I mean, they both are possible. We don’t live in a sitcom world where you can either be the high school quarterback or the nerd but only one. Both just seems to make the most sense to me. So when John Doe comes to that time where he could cut a corner or save himself some effort by cheating the system, MAYBE he will think of me. MAYBE he will remember how I did my job and HOPEFULLY that will give him enough incentive to do his job right.
The next principle I believe in can be said in one word, understanding. Every day every person in the work place has some problem. Whether it is a headache or a sick kid at home or financial troubles, people deal with stuff that they tend to keep bottled up. Not only as a leader but as a person I feel like it is my job to help people out with these problems. So if I notice someone is down I am most likely going to ask them what is wrong. Even if they don’t want to talk about it, it helps to know that someone cares enough to ask. Sometimes all people need is someone that will listen, they don’t even need advice or compassion they just need someone to help them carry the weight of their problems. The funny thing about people and their problems is that most times we let out all of our small problems but the big ones we are afraid are too big. We let our big problems kill us internally and talk about the little ones as if they are killing us. Even if the problems don’t concern the workplace and won’t help the company to be solved, a person is still a person. We all deserve to have one person that will listen and care. I want to be the guy that cared.
Last is just a simple as the previous. Equality. People tend to shape up their act when the boss is around. They don’t really do it because they think they’ll get fired if they don’t, it is more because they want to impress you because you’re important. That can be good and bad. On one hand it shows they want to work hard for you, but it also creates a divide between you and your employees. I want the guy that drives our 18 wheeler to know I think the same of him as I do our best salesman. Not only because he is just as essential to the business, but because he is just as human. It shouldn’t matter if the person is black, white, purple, tall, short, fat, skinny, gay, straight, minimum wage, a billionaire, a genius, an idiot, male, female, old, young, good looking, ugly, or superbly average in every aspect of life. Every one of those qualities have one thing in common, they are still people. We push money and bottom line all the time in America now and sure it is REALLY important but what does it matter if we have to treat people like slaves to get it? I don’t care if you’re Bill Gates or Steve Jobs the most important and lasting legacy you can leave is that you treated every single person equally. Because one day that minimum wage person is going to have a kid and teach that kid that same lesson. They’ll say I worked hard for my boss because he really cared about me. It will get passed on for generations. It’s bigger than some news article saying how rich and famous you were. It is something that people can feel. I would love to say that there are no pawns in businesses but there are actually a lot of them. But no one should EVER feel like one. That’s the difference maker. It is the bridge between working for The Company and working WITH my boss.
Overall it is hard to say what challenges will be presented to me every day, or year, or decade. Maybe the toughest thing will be not forgetting what I just wrote. To not get sucked into meeting the deadlines and making quotas so much that I don’t remember to be a person. My biggest fear is turning into some robot or puppet that only cares about the business end of my company and forgets about the personal end. Maybe that’s a good fear to have, it will hopefully remind me not to fall into it. It seems like such a naïve concept that those simple three things could leave a legacy for me that is bigger than anything I could do as far as the business is concerned but I believe in it. People are what make any company work, end of story. So I want to make people important, not just for the business sake, but for theirs too. That is my legacy, to make people important.