Will you join me in imagining a quick scenario? Imagine that you’re my boss, and I’m your employee. I put in several years of work for you—five, ten, maybe even fifteen. Then I move on to something else—but then, 20 years down the road, our paths cross once more.
Maybe I’m with my wife when it happens. We’re exiting a restaurant, and I spot you waiting outside for a table, or just sitting down to enjoy your meal. I gesture to my wife. “Do you see that person over there?” I ask her. “That used to be my boss.”
“Oh really?” my wife might ask. “Was this person a good boss, or a bad boss?”
Now here’s my question for you: What am I going to say to my wife in response to this question?
Or, to cast it less hypothetically… what will your current employees be saying about you years, potentially decades down the line?
Will they remember you at all?
And if they pass you on the street, will their immediate recollections of you be fond, admiring ones—or will they be negative?
This is the concept I like to call the leadership epitaph, and it’s really pretty simple. What it boils down to is the need for leaders to think about how they’ll be remembered, and what that might mean for the way they lead their team right now.
There are a couple of different dimensions to the leadership epitaph. There is the broader sense of what your tenure as leader will ultimately mean to the company. Will you be remembered as the executive who created new jobs, expanded profits, and helped the company soar to new heights? Or will you be remembered as the person who was in charge during a period of major layoffs and losses?
But frankly, I think most employees will remember you less for the big picture stuff and more for the day to day. Do you lead by inspiring your employees—or yelling at them? Are you open to their feedback? Do you make them feel valued? Do you allow them to have their voices heard?
Do you empower your employees to be productive and happy in their work life?
These are the things your employees will remember. These are the things that will one day comprise your leadership epitaph.
So let me ask you one more thing: Are you concerned about what your employees will say about you when they pass you on the street, years from now? It’s only natural to wonder, but you can do more than that. You can think honestly and critically about your leadership style right now, and make the changes necessary to create a positive leadership epitaph.
Dr. Rick Goodman CSP is a thought leader in the world of leadership and is known as one of the most sought after team building experts in the United States and internationally.
He is famous for helping organizations, corporations, and individuals with systems and strategies that produce increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micro managing the process. Some of Dr. Rick’s clients include AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, Heineken, IBM, and Hewlett Packard.