By Jeremy Crow, WCM Audit Manager
In this article I will discuss the privilege we have as business leaders to build a legacy for future generations. There are three elements to building a legacy that are important to remember.
#1 – What are you building?
I think most of us have heard of Moses. You know, the man in the Bible that God used to part the Red Sea and lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. I’ll bet that most of us want to be more like Moses. But there is something interesting about his story that most of us can relate too. Moses didn’t make it into the Promised Land. Instead he went through that entire forty-year journey to only catch a glimpse of the reward for their struggles. We can relate to the fact that growing a business, family, or any endeavor takes a ton of commitment and hard work, but in the end, we don’t always get to enjoy all that we have invested.
Understanding this reality puts in a difficult position as a leader. We begin wonder if it is all worth it. The good news, however, is that a strong leader is in it not for what they get out of it, but for what they can build for others. It is our job as a leader to build something that will positively impact future generations. I have seen this time and again with business leaders who pass on their work from one generation to the next. Sometimes this happens within the family. Other times a willing leader with the right character is called on to build on the foundation that was laid before him or her, as in the case of Moses who passed on his leadership to Joshua. In the end the next generation carries it forward.
#2 – Who are you raising up to lead?
I have heard lots of talk lately about the next generation’s lack of interest in leadership. I agree that many of the things that motivated previous generations don’t drive today’s young adults. But one thing I know for sure is that people in the next generation want to positively change the world. This is encouraging news and should be leveraged by current leaders as a way to communicate the vision and passion of their work to potential leaders.
One of the lessons that we can learn from Moses is that he was willing to invest in and trust Joshua as his assistant. Joshua commanded the men to fight battles for the Israelites and stayed with Moses has he spoke to God. This is an example of how we should bring the next generation in close to us so they can experience and see firsthand how to lead and grow a business or organization. As a leader we must be willing to let certain people see us up close so they know how to respond when we make mistakes and when we win big.
Finding that special person isn’t easy. However, we must be willing to search until we find someone that has the passion and character that will reflect the values of your business or organization. When you do, you will be able to take the next steps of learning to let it go.
#3 – When will you let it go?
I think one of the biggest questions we have in leadership is, “When do I let it go?” There is usually a lot resting on the timing of this decision. It may seem like the next generation still doesn’t have a strong grip on all it takes to lead your business or organization. We all want to protect people from failure to some extent so we put off the decision as long as possible. Sometimes we don’t get to decide when; it just happens through circumstances outside of our control.
That was the case for Moses who remained the leader until his death and at that point Joshua took the lead and was able to step into the Promised Land. Unfortunately, Moses didn’t get to see all that his assistant accomplished. But nevertheless, Moses laid the foundation for something that impacted the next generation and generations to come.
For many of us, we will get the opportunity to see the next generation take over. This is a scary, but it can be an exciting experience. My hope is that as leaders we can step away soon enough to enjoy this experience and be a source of wisdom and encouragement to that next generation.
One important thing to remember about this story is that Joshua was already called out to lead the people even before Moses’s death. This is a key factor in the success of the next generation. They must know it themselves and it must be known by others that they will become a leader. Without this vision for their lives, he or she may never step up to the heights that they’ve been called.
As you consider your legacy we are asking you to consider what you are building in your business or organization. Then find people to invest in that will be raised up to lead. Finally, consider when and how you plan to let it go to the next generation.
We would love to hear your comments and stories about building a legacy.