A Leader's Legacy

Written by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Published by Jossey-Bass

After studying the multifaceted field of leadership for decades, best-selling authors and teachers at Santa Clara University Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have discovered many secrets to establishing a lasting leadership legacy. For example, when leaders focus on their own legacies and make choices according to how they will be regarded after their time at the helm is over, they have a greater chance of having a lasting impact that is intentional and valuable rather than haphazard and short-lived.

Kouzes and Posner are famous for their previous book The Leadership Challenge as well as its spin-off handbooks and training tools. In that book, which has sold more than a million and a half copies, the authors wrote a clear review of the fundamentals of leadership.

In their book A Leader's Legacy, the authors expand their vision for better leadership by exploring the basics of building a positive and enduring legacy as a leader. In more than 20 brief, concise essays, they address the long-lasting impact a leader can have on the people he or she leads, and show how our daily actions fit into the larger context of our long-term relationships, plans and goals.

According to the authors, creating a great legacy "requires an appreciation of others." It also requires a realization of the consequences of our actions and taking responsibility for the decisions we make. The authors explain, "A heartfelt quest to leave a lasting legacy is a journey from success to significance." By caring about what we leave behind for others, they explain, we plant better seeds for the future.

A Leader's Legacy offers readers dozens of experiences and stories that personalize its encouragement to consider a lasting legacy while making the most mundane and daily decisions. By exploring "the choices you make as you walk your path to greatness," the authors shed light into deep leadership concepts such as significance, relationships, aspirations and courage. Their insights offer succinct reminders of our hidden powers and the many people effected by our actions.

The authors write that great leaders consider the tangible and intangible aspects of themselves that others experience when they think, speak and act. When we consider that the triumphs of those we serve are our greatest achievements, we gain a deeper respect and understanding of how we can do the hard work of leadership. The authors write, "Leaders who see their role as serving others leave the most lasting legacies." They add that when we invest in helping others grow, we are also helping ourselves develop the skills of exemplary leaders.

The authors explain that success in leadership is about more than tangible results. It is also about the pain and suffering involved in solving problems and meeting people's needs. Being concerned about the welfare of others and putting their needs first creates a direct path to establishing the loyalty between leaders and their constituents that leads to lasting and positive impressions. The authors point out that sacrificing, serving others and sharing the burden are the actions a leader can take to make a significant contribution to others.

A Leader's Legacy contains dozens of valuable, humane messages. These include: Accept and acknowledge the people who help you create something meaningful; stand up and make something happen; request feedback from those the authors call "loving critics"; learn as you teach; and build, nurture and sustain trust. The authors add, "The most enduring leadership legacies are those of leaders who have set their people free."

The lessons Kouzes and Posner deliver are valuable because they acknowledge the humanity of the people involved in leadership and the importance of the relationships between leaders and their people. A Leader's Legacy not only creates a lasting leadership legacy for its authors, but it also helps others do the same, which in turn benefits the many, many people who will inherit those legacies.

Reviewed by Chris Lauer, senior editor, SEBS