It’s a (slightly) edited closing piece from a brilliant book called LEGACY written by James Kerr. In my Amazon review of the book, I wrote:
One of the best leadership/culture-building books ever
That headline says it all. You can really ‘feel’ this book as you read it. It resonates deeply. And it’s written with beautiful humility as if the story-teller is as amazed and inspired by discovering the insights as we are in sharing them. A stunningly brilliant book.
Read on …. And when you’ve finished, I’ll tell you the story of how it came to be written. For now, dive in and enjoy.
Our social footprint
Our social footprint is the impact our life has — or can have — on other lives. It begins with character — a deep respect for our deepest values — and it involves a committed enquiry into our life’s purpose. What do we hold most sacred? What’s our purpose here? What can we pass on, teach?
Great teams play with great purpose. From ‘Uniting and Inspiring new Zealanders’ to ‘Ubuntu’ from ‘Semper Fidelis’ to ‘democratising the automobile’, to ‘making the world a better place’, to ‘I Have a Dream’, the most inspiring leaders play a bigger, more important game.
Not long ago, we respected bankers and hedge-fund financiers and vulture investors though making money alone was enough. Patently — after the sleazy collapse of financial standards — this is not true any more.
There is nothing wrong with making money but as a sole ambition it certainly isn’t inspiring an emerging generation that values human connection, social interaction and authenticity more highly.
In a society badly let down by the promises of corporations it seems that capitalism has an opportunity to re-define itself and play a different game. It’s not enough just to win anymore, we must win with flair. We must leave the jersey in a better place.
Fortunately for the more hard-headed business person, the result of this shift in approach is not just an altruistic fantasy or a meaningless sop to society. It is a very real driver for organisational performance, cohesion and conviction.
It is likely that the teams — whether companies or causes — that contribute a healthy social footprint will be those that survive and thrive over the coming decades.
They’ll recruit better talent, engender more loyalty and profit from a virtuous cycle of purchase and recommendation, and build a sustainable culture of contribution and success. From their value to society will come their value as company.
The cynics — those just in it for the money — have been found out. Theirs is no longer a sustainable model; increasingly, wealth on its own is no decent definition of success. It doesn’t play well at dinner parties or in a eulogy.
By taking responsibility for something more than profits, we tap into a collective vibrancy that is not only good for the world but also good for business. To ‘leave the jersey in a better place’ means to work incrementally towards a better collective outcome. It means to be a custodian of the future, an architect of tomorrow, a steward of society. It means to live with respect, humility and excellence.
As leaders it means that we will truly lead, not just manage, and that others will spill blood for our team. People want to believe in something bigger than themselves; purpose propels and moves people, and moving people is the purpose of a leader.
‘Service to others’, said Muhammad Ali, ‘is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.’ But it’s about more than rent, it’s about respect: honouring that which we are capable of becoming, being great rather than just good, playing a bigger game, a more expansive game, a more ambitious game.
It all comes back to sweeping the sheds.
The word ‘character’ comes from the ancient Greek, ‘kharakter’, meaning the mark that is left on a coin during its manufacture. Character is also the mark left on you by life, and the mark we leave on life.
It’s the impact you make when you’re here, the trace you leave once you’re gone.
Character rises out of our values, our purpose, the standards we set ourselves, our sacrifice and commitment, and the decisions we make under pressure, but is primarily defined by the contribution we make, the responsibility we take, the leadership we show.
Character is formed by the way we respond to the challenges of life and business, by the way we lead our life and our teams. If we value life, life values us. If we devalue it, we dishonour ourselves and our one chance at living. This is our time.
Leadership is surely the example we set. The way we lead our own life is what makes us a leader.
Be a Good Ancestor
Our time is limited. Understanding the fragility of life is the first step of life is the first step in understanding our role and responsibility as a leader. Our greatest responsibility is to honour those who came before us and those who will come after, to leave the jersey in a better place.
We are the stewards of our organisations, the caretakers of our own lineage. Our actions today will echo beyond our time. They are our legacy.
Paul Dunn now:
I hope you loved that like I did. And I promised you I’d let you know how this piece came to be written.
When I was speaking in the UK recently, I was fortunate enough to be hosted by Simon Chaplin, a B1G1 client in Peterborough, UK, to the Quarter Final of the Rugby World Cup. (Each year, Simon invites me to something extra-ordinary!)
I’d NEVER seen a Rugby game live before.
He had thought it would be England playing someone. But instead (since the English team had had an inglorious exit) it was THE game between France and New Zealand. You may recall it was a classic game with the All Blacks showing the world how the game really should be played. The final score: All Blacks 62, France 13.
It was an amazing game. And we were right on the try-line when Julian Savea (the one kneeling in the photo above) went over for what would later become recognised as ‘the try of the year’.
On returning to Singapore I started to rave to my friend Callum Laing about the game. “Oh,” he said, “and how come you’ve never got that book about the All-Blacks called Legacy that I keep recommending to you?”
I honestly could never recall a single recommendation like that from Callum. But I did get the Kindle version of Legacy that night.
And that lead to my Amazon review and to this post. I hope you get a sense from this why the book is an absolute must read. Everyone I’ve recommended it to raves back to me.
So do let me know your feelings once you’ve read it too.
And then, if you’d like to find a way of becoming a good (if not ‘great’) ancestor, do take a peak at B1G1. It’s great way to create your legacy too.