A Leader’s Legacy

Leadership is ultimately measured not by what a leader builds but rather who a leader builds up. The legacy we leave in those around us is the ultimate measure of our leadership; but as James Kouzes notes, “Legacies are not the result of wishful thinking. They are the result of determined doing.”

When it comes to a leader’s legacy, Scripture could not be more clear in the importance and primacy of this task. Moses left a legacy in Joshua, Elijah invested in Elisha, Jesus poured Himself into the 12 and Paul equipped Timothy. The message and the model of Scripture is clear: leaders are called to pour themselves into the next generation of leaders for the good of the Kingdom. Consequently, the question every leader must ultimately ask is: “Who am I investing in today to prepare for the leadership of tomorrow?”

Passing It On

The natural inclination for most leaders is to focus on their own growth and development, but true leadership is about considering the growth and development of the leaders around you. Neglecting to pour into the leaders around you will ultimately undermine your own leadership. Everything you have worked for will end with you unless you prepare your people and your organization to carry it on.

The best leaders don’t simply build or manage great organizations, they ensure that great leadership is there to lead the organization into the future long after they are gone. How do we do this? Consider these principles as you reflect on leaving a legacy through your own leadership:

1.  Offer Exposure and Experience.

For leadership to be successfully passed on it must be readily visible and accessible by those you are developing. Christ seldom did ministry alone; frequently involving His disciples in ministry and processing with them regularly about what they had just seen. Why was this so critical? Because nothing is more important than exposure and experience in the formation of a leader.  Ask yourself: Who will you invite to join you and learn from you as you lead?

2.  Character Is Critical.

When considering who to pour into, remember that character is critical. It sounds obvious, but many leaders can get so focused on competency that they neglect to do their due diligence when it comes to character. Skills can be taught and developed, but character is a critical necessity for leadership that cannot be compromised. Without character a young, competent leader will grow impatient during his or her development. Don’t risk the future of your organization on someone who can’t wait and won’t listen.

3.  Humble and Hungry.

What do you do if you have a young leader with character but lacking in the core competencies to do the job? Ask, “Are they humble and hungry?” You can do a lot with someone who is hungry to develop; but you can’t do anything with someone who is hard to motivate (or worse yet, doesn’t think they need the help!). Focus the bulk of your time on investing in  young leaders that have the humility to learn and the hunger to develop.

4.  Allow for Failure.

Too often leaders try to shield the people they are developing from failure for fear that they will get discouraged, lose heart or quit. The problem with that approach is that failure is often the best mentor. We tend to learn the most from our failures, not from our successes. Not only that, failure is a key tool in God’s hands that keeps us humble and dependent on Him. It was precisely Peter’s failure before Christ that led to His radical transformation from an eager, hot-headed leader to a humble and gentle shepherd of God’s sheep. Don’t rescue your team from failure, teach them instead how to walk through failure and learn from it.

Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t build a business, you build people. And then people build the business.” So stop trying to build a great organization and invest yourself instead in building great men and women that will make your organization truly great.


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