I recently attended the funeral of someone I’ve known for over 30 years. As long-time relationships sometimes unfold into different roles, we went from being acquaintances to friends, to client – vendor, to vendor – client, and back to acquaintances.
Years went by when we only exchanged pleasantries at an annual fundraising event. Other years we would have in-depth conversations about business, family, community and life. Regardless of what, where, when and why, I always learned something from the interaction. In fact, I’ve been quoting this person for many years. To me, their legacy of leadership didn’t just happen after they passed away.
Many times, leaders think their legacy starts when they retire, or at “the end of the day.” I was one of those people. Old school thinking says “what do you want to be known for at the end of the day.” Or, with more finality, “what will they put on your tombstone.” Quite frankly, who cares! By then it’s too late.
Leadership is a mindset that gives every human being the right to discover, grow, develop new skills, reinvent, innovate, and then share their learnings with others. It’s also a continual process of examination and rebirth. Leadership development is never done. And, the legacy that comes from our own leadership development is what plants the seeds of greatness in others.
60 years ago, Earl Nightengale started challenging people to think about the messages they were planting for themselves and others. His research found that the creation of great achievements started with the thoughts and messages we planted in our minds. The more positive and powerful the messages were, the greater the outcome and achievement.
In a segment from his famous story, “The Strangest Secret,” Mr. Nightengale described how the human mind is much like a farmer’s land.
If a farmer plants two seeds, one of corn and one of nightshade, a deadly poison, and he waters the seeds and takes care of the land, both seeds will grow in abundance. Like our minds, the land doesn’t care what is planted.
The human mind, however, is far more fertile, incredible and mysterious than the land. But, It doesn’t care what we plant – success or failure, a worthy goal or chaos; misunderstanding, fear, and anxiety or caring, integrity, and cooperation. What we plant will be returned in abundance.
As you plant seeds of greatness for yourself, sustain the effort by planting positive and powerful seeds in the minds of the people with whom you interact.
Chances are, most people in leadership roles don’t think about their legacy on a regular basis. If we consciously practice planting the seeds needed to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others, the legacy of leadership will just happen. And, the more seeds we sow, the more abundant the outcomes.
Here is a small packet of seeds to help you set your legacy of leadership in motion. Feel free to plant them in all your “gardens” – family, friends, peers, and employees. The instructions are easy – Plant in full sun. Water and fertilize daily.