The Law of Legacy

What is a legacy? Its planting seeds in the ground for a future you never see.  - Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
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Reflections on John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”


One of the best scenes in the Game of Thrones series is the introduction of Tywin Lannister, the wealthiest person in Westeros. Tywin is talking with his son Jamie about the importance of leaving behind a legacy for his family. He argues that what lives on, beyond personal fame or glory, is the family name, the only thing worth protecting. Tywin is deeply concerned with the family legacy — that the Lannister name remains a house to be feared and respected.

Procuring a legacy is not a new concept for leaders. People want to know that their hard work and dedication means something. A legacy is something you only dream about but never see to fruition. Lin Manuel Miranda writes about Alexander Hamilton’s obsession with a legacy in the show Hamilton. He is a man who “writes like he is running out of time” and is “desperate to rise above his station.” Hamilton is eager to die to secure his place in history, but can never see it fulfilled. For Hamilton and many leaders, the challenge is to raise others to carry your mission for future generations. A proper legacy lives on for generations after you are gone, but “you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”

But let’s not get that complicated. Let’s make it as simple as possible. A legacy can be nothing more than doing your job to the fullest and having people feel the effects of leaving. As author and speaker, Bryan Williams, puts it, “in every job, leave behind proof that you once worked there.” Williams shares his story of working at a five-star restaurant and taking it upon himself to label the shelves where all of the cutlery was stored. Years later, when he visited that restaurant, to his surprise, the labels were still there and still in use.


At my former hotel, I strived to leave behind a legacy of my training and development impact. I started calling employees “storytellers” and trained them around the philosophy that hospitality professionals told service stories on a day to day basis. After leaving the company several years ago, I checked back on their careers website and discovered they are still calling their employees “storytellers.” — proof that I once worked there.

A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. — John C. Maxwell

The HBO Series, Succession, is all about the Law of Legacy. Logan Roy, a media giant with inexplicable power, is obsessed with who he allows to succeed him and lead the family company into the future. The problem: Logan loses control of his physical being after a stroke and starts seizing authority back in his company to compensate.

Leaders like Logan Roy, who are too afraid to let go of control, risk their legacies because they are ultimately valued by who succeeds them.

Leaders should train their employees to leave behind their own legacies regardless of how long they will be employed. Start small and over time slowly grow into the Achilles type legacy of which you dream.

The best way to start your legacy is by leading others to your vision, and leave proof behind that you were there.

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