What's in a legacy



Two decades of working in Lansing provided me with a front-row seat to observe the career progression and decision-making of many association and industry leaders. I've always appreciated how valuable a learning experience their leadership was for me - seeing what worked and what didn't, learning about their decision-making, and observing how they interacted with those they served as well as one another. But one behavior above others has always left me wondering. 

In the September of their careers, many leaders start thinking and talking about legacy. They reflect on business accomplishments, legislative victories, and the like, assessing the merit of each against some invisible bar. Unfortunately, this concern for legacy can sometimes takeover, coloring every action and decision, distorting organizational trajectory, and diverting resources. When this happens, the work is no longer about the mission; it's about memory.  

Strange as it seems, I've seen this happen with some truly exceptional leaders. Folks who left a mark on their industries - whose work made a difference. It always strikes me as ironic. I mean, no one else is doubting the value of their contributions except them. Perhaps if they could see themselves as the world sees them, they could grant themselves some grace. 

So, this week, let us pay homage to one of the greats by taking a lesson from her playbook. Kelly Rossman-McKinney touched many lives; she shared of herself authentically in that bold, gloves-off sort of way that was unique to her. To understand what legacy truly is, one need only read the heartfelt messages people have shared about how Kelly impacted their lives. 

Kelly's last lesson for us may be her most powerful. What greater legacy could there be than a life well-lived, on one's own terms, always with people at the center?

Well done, Kelly. Godspeed!