Newsletter 445 – The Lifetime Practice of Great Leadership

When should you start thinking about your legacy? The answer is right now, regardless of your age, according to Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership, John Hamm’s outstanding “manual for leaders.”  Imagine yourself in the future, looking back on your life and leadership. Your greatest legacy will not be the items on your résumé. You will be remembered for your reputation (what people think of you), your character (how you showed your values, integrity and commitment), your competence (what skills you developed and applied) and your impact (what you leave behind). None of these is built after you retire. By then the die has pretty much been cast. Your legacy is built over your lifetime. And according to this new book, a legacy comes from how one has practiced nine core leadership skills: being authentic, trustworthy, and compelling; leading people, strategy, and the execution of your plans; communicating, making decisions and consistently impacting others so they, in turn, become leaders.

Initially I was unimpressed by the book’s format. It seemed like another book of laws for leadership or lists of leader qualities, but the author won me over as he illustrated his fundamentals of great leadership. In effective leaders these develop over time. “The essentials never change but they must regularly be rewritten to reflect the changes in context brought by culture, technology, and competition.”  Over time these essentials fade from our thinking and need to be rekindled – sometimes with the help of a good coach. Ponder these conclusions from the book: Good leaders

  • Good leaders “attract followers with their credibility; they keep them on the team with their competence.”
  • There is no higher discipline than “making sure you complete immediate, high-priority goals before running off to take on others.”
  • “To keep your followers engaged, you must regularly recreate the original passion, simulating the reasons they first joined the team”
  • Passion and enthusiasm can have a downside. It’s called overcommitment.
  • “Older leaders either learn to shepherd their strength and save it for moments when it is most needed, or they burnout and depart.”

Please comment by sharing your observations or experiences.


  1. As I read this my first thought is how true! We need to continually be thinking of the legacy we are leaving.
    My second thought is: That still is a focus on us (in our pride) rather than on the glory to God that we were created for.
    So my closing thought is the more important thing is to be focused on the reason we would care about our legacy at all.


  2. Too many of us never think of our legacy until we are older and the “die is cast.” But smart leaders are those that challenge themselves to a higher plane by employing a coach (or mentor). This book would be a great tool for coaching. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Steven Covey said, in “First Things First,” that all people have 4 central needs: To live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy. I know of no human being I have ever met who strived to be ‘forgotten.’ I believe that the way an individual completes the following sentence will determine a great deal about their priorities: “I will be known as a person who ….”


    1. Ken, I love this – and we can start working on this now. FYI I want to be known as a person who inspired, engaged, encouraged and equipped others to make a difference and reach their God-given potential.


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