The Legacy We Leave
I recently left my position (after nearly 16-years with one company and 9-years) as Managing Director of Shared Services for a large multi-national publisher and software company. It was a leaving tinged with both sadness and joy.
It was interesting for me as I reflected on the last 16-years of my working life. What had I achieved, what legacy will I leave and more importantly how will I be remembered. Most of us would want to be remembered for hopefully leaving the business in better shape than it was when they arrived.
I originally accepted the position based on the promise of being able to drive change (hopefully for the better) across the business. I was so disillusioned that after 3-months I was actively looking to leave, and in fact was offered another position. I stayed, because I believe you make the decision based on the right reasons and ‘running away’ when things got a bit tough or you were bored was not a valid or right reason.
Over the 16-years I was presented with a succession of career changing and personally rewarding opportunities. Opportunities to lead and drive organisational change, opportunities to introduce quality best practices, opportunities to reinvent how we publish. I was given the opportunity to create the strategy for moving to Shared Services across Asia Pacific and leading and driving that initiative. The latter being one of the most successful endeavours undertaken by the organisation for many years. Lastly, as a result of a number of the preceding activities I was supported and given the green-light to build from scratch an extremely successful off-shore captive based in Malaysia.
Many of these achievements were acknowledged in the many farewells that I received. Humbling to say the least and I am proud of what my team/s achieved over many years and therefore proud of what I also achieved. At the end of the day however, none of this is a lasting legacy. Shared Services has largely been broken up. The global organisation didn’t share the same vision as I did of value and where the shared services business could go. That is their right to make decisions based on what they believe is in the best interest of their business. I have no issue with that.
As I read through the hundred plus farewells I received, it dawned on me what the real worth is that we have as a leader and it is with deep humility and gratitude that I acknowledge what the real legacy is that I leave. My legacy is in people. It is the future leaders. I have a deep passion for leadership and leadership based on values. I believe with clear vision and commitment to encouraging people, as a collective you can achieve the most extraordinary things and we have proved that over and over again over the past 16-years.
I have strived to be a good leader. I didn’t always get it right but the one thing I never lost sight of was the value of people and the unbelievable courage they have in driving forward if they can buy into the vision and if they trust you. Trust you not just to make the soft decisions but to make the right decisions and to stand by those decisions and to standby them.
We are not always aware of the impact we have. Few people will tell you. It is such a humbling experience when people take the time to commit their thoughts to paper and to let you know what impact you have had on them. So remember people do watch, they do listen and they do follow you lead. Make it a positive one for them.
I am sad that I will lose touch on a day-by-day basis with so many inspiring and courageous young people, but I am excited about the next chapter of my life. With my husband we are moving to the UK to live and once settled I am setting up my own business. It is now time for me. I will be continuing with mentoring a number of ex-staff who have asked if I would take on this role for them. I will enjoy that. I will have more time to write about the things I am passionate about and to support causes I am equally passionate about; rights of women and children in third-world countries, supporting animal rights and the homeless.
I will leave you with one last thought and restate. The legacy we leave isn’t in the organisational structure, the procedures etc. Someone new will come along and change that. The legacy we leave is in the people. In is the time spent helping them to be successful, to create belief in themselves and their abilities and instilling in them courage and perseverance. Helping them to see the vision and as one of my ex-staff said “take giants by the horns”. There is nothing better. If they acknowledge that, you have won the lottery. It is what life is about, helping others.