A Leader’s Legacy

wpid-Photo-Aug-29-2008-710-PM In my last blog I shared some things that were helpful to me from Al Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead. I loved how this book started and how it ended.  Mohler began by saying our convictions (the beliefs that hold us in our grip) drive and determine everything.  You can be lacking in many areas as a leader – management proficiency, the art of delegation, strategy – but you better not be lacking in conviction.

So what about the end?  That’s all about the leader’s legacy; what he leaves behind.  I know there are differing opinions about this.  I’ve heard some leaders say legacy is everything and others say legacy is nothing.  Mohler says, “The leader unconcerned about leaving a legacy is a leader who will leave the job undone.”  Obviously legacy matters to Mohler!

To be honest I’ve been somewhat jaded by this idea of leaving a legacy – mostly by celebrity pastors who it appears, want to be remembered for their fame. So I was going to take some convincing.  And convince me he did.  You see Mohler is not so much concerned about his legacy, but a legacy of passion for the truth – the “perpetuation of conviction” as he calls it.  A good leader should be able to drive his convictions and beliefs about the truth so deeply into the culture and ethos of an organization that alteration or abandonment of those very convictions is seen as betrayal.

Then he gives some examples of where this did not happen: great  institutions such as Yale and Havard which abandoned their strong Christian heritage and became secularized.  I thought also of the many great Seminaries and Bible Colleges around the globe that once made a stand for the orthodox Christian faith that now don’t even believe the bible is the Word of God.  J.D. Rockefeller once said the founder makes a great fortune, his children invest it, and his grandchildren squander it.  I can see how that could happen in spiritual terms.

So legacy does matter.  Yes, when it’s the right kind.

In closing, Mohler had some thoughts about succession (my favourite part in the book).  A leader will be followed by a successor who will inherit what is left behind.  Sometimes a leader will have some control over this (depending on his level of influence) and sometimes he won’t.  Mohler then says something that is very important:

“Leadership succession is excruciatingly difficult because leadership is, by its very nature, so personal.  I will not be succeeded by myself. Whoever follows me will have his own ideas, his own passions, and his own vision for the future.  That is not only acceptable, it is necessary.  The organization will need a new voice, will need to see with new eyes, and will need a new vision.  The outgoing leader should celebrate these and get out of the way.”

I scribed lines around this in my book.  I needed to hear this.  Because one day I will be succeeded by someone else, and he won’t be like me.  Now Mohler does provide a caveat for this: if the convictional beliefs of the organization wind up being marginalized or compromised (by the new leader), it won’t be so easy for him to simply “get out of the way.”  But if the new leader is staying on track he ought to be left alone so he can get the job done.

That’s good leadership.


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