In an MBA class, we were discussing courage when one of the older students became animated. She shared a personal story. When she was a girl, her father was the head of a Quaker group in Little Rock, Arkansas. After the integration of Little Rock High School, many laws were being passed to protect segregation. The Quakers voiced a contrary position and her father was told to be silent or he would lose his job. He told them that he could not be silent.
She told this story with great feeling. I asked the class why the story was so important to this woman. They made some thoughtful comments. I suggested that when he exercised his courage, her father was probably giving little thought to his daughter, yet he was leaving his daughter a legacy (an inheritance, gift, remnant, or reminder) which had now become a core element in her own identity.
A good test of leadership is legacy. I asked how much time they spent thinking about leading their great, great grandchildren. The answer was zero. What legacy would they leave? Will one of their great grandchildren tell a story of positive deviance about them as this woman had just told of her father? We do not usually do the things that we do for the purpose of leaving a legacy, but what we do may be worth remembering and passing on from generation to generation. Thinking about the kind of legacy we want to leave can help us clarify our values and elevate our courage.
- What is a legacy?
- What have you done that is likely to reach and inspire your great grandchildren?
- What could you do that would reach and inspire your great grandchildren?
- How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?