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Humble, Open Leaders Leave Greatest Legacies

In a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek article authored by John Ryan, “Three Keys to a Great Leadership Legacy,” the author does a terrific job of explaining the roots of truly great and admirable legacies.

There is no shortage of discussion on the legacy leaders leave behind. Most claim that all leaders are obsessed with his/her own legacy. Some say that self-promoters don’t care if the image left bears no resemblance to reality, as long as it serves a purpose, like making more money, sustaining a movement or retaining power and influence. Still others say that one should not be concerned with their legacy at all – that it is purely an exercise in hubris. But, surely a good, lasting example can be beneficial to those who leaders leave behind – colleagues, employees, friends, family and other constituents.

Advice on how to create and maintain a lasting and positive legacy are just as diverse. Many believe it is an after-the-fact, public relations effort and that one can create whatever image they’d like provided you put enough effort (and perhaps money) behind it. We don’t. We believe that the greatest legacies start with the actions of the individual while he or she is grinding to goals and then are actually built on emulation.

We would like to concentrate on Ryan’s third key in his article: “We all need critical mirrors.” It takes a humble leader open to criticism to really ever have the right mindset to continue to achieve rather than stagnate through the end of his/her career. He/she can only then positively impress those who surround him/her and leave a great legacy.

A few additional thoughts about leaders seeking feedback:

· Choose your advisors wisely: Those who can truly help will be trusted and candid friends, C-suite confidants, and skilled external and internal executive coaches.

· Listen actively and deferentially: This is not a time to debate deficiencies or argue your case. Take your medicine.

· Seek solutions: Feedback is only helpful if you are also gathering suggestions on behavioral change

What do you think makes for a great legacy? Do you see a connection between humbly accepting feedback and an inspiring leader? If so, what examples do you have to share?