Leaving a legacy

I was recently asked about the legacy I wish to leave. The context of this discussion was within a business leadership group I attended where we were encouraged to dare to become the next Elon Musk.

This got me thinking. Not just about whether Elon Musk is someone to aspire to be like or not but to the nature of legacy.

For business owners and entrepreneurs, there can be an expectation of seeking great wealth and power and leaving that legacy to future generations, either within your family or within your corporation. See my blog titled “Defining Your Success” to see my opinions on this expectation. This understanding fits well with Cambridge Dictionary’s first description of legacy.

Cambridge Dictionary describes legacy as “money or property that you receive from someone after they die” or “something that is a part of your history or that remains from an earlier time.”

It’s the third explanation under Business English I found most interesting, “a situation that has developed as a result of past actions and decisions”.

Today would have been Colin Buckland’s, my fathers, 67th birthday. He wasn’t what most people would consider a wealthy man, though by the end of his life he had become the Founder and Executive Director of an international leadership consultancy organisation. His organisation (a non-profit) worked in 27 countries with all kinds of leaders from a local level to government officials and international leaders.

Sadly some years ago my father passed away, he didn’t leave me a great fortune to inherit, nor are there impressive buildings with his name on the side. None of my siblings or I took over his organisation, it was merged with another, and as a family, we have very little to do with it any more. So does that mean the legacy of my father is over? And with no physical legacy was his life wasted or lacking in any way?

I believe my fathers legacy lives on, not just within my family but with those he gave so much to, from those he taught and those he spent time with.

The days surrounding my father’s death, he had people visiting him from all over the world — friends from a wide range of backgrounds hoping to bring some comfort and support to him. Business leaders who took very little time off chose to take a day out of their lives to travel to the UK and spend it with a man in ill health as he meant so much to them. The day of his funeral the church was filled with people far and wide telling stories of how one man had impacted their lives. These are memories that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Despite the lack of physical infrastructure and great wealth, his impact on a practical level and in the hearts and minds of people lives on.

Over the past ten years or more we’ve seen the weakness of economics, buildings and even historical monuments. We’ve witnessed recessions all over the world, terrorist attacks and wars that strip nations of their buildings, we’ve seen shifts in national alliances and political discourse. What remains are people, the lessons they’ve learnt and the impact they have on the next generation.

Perhaps then our focus for leaving a legacy is ill thought through when put into wealth and power and instead should be on supporting the next generation. If each of us chose to invest time and resources into developing the capabilities of individuals on an emotional and intellectual level our true legacy may never fade.

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