Introduction: Imagine the year is 2020. You are attending a ceremony honoring you as Leader of the Year. One after another, colleagues and coworkers, members of your family, and good friends take the stage to talk about your leadership and how you have made a positive difference in their lives. What do you hope they will say about you? How do you hope you are remembered on that day? What will be the story that they tell about you?
Process: Record your thoughts using this six-step process, incorporating the following L.I.F.E. themes:
- L = Lessons
- I = Ideals
- F = Feelings
- E = Expressions
- What vital Lessons do you hope others will say you are passing on (e.g., she taught me how to face adversity with grace and determination; he taught me what it means to be a coach)?
- For what Ideals — values, principles, ethical standards, dreams, and aspirations — do you hope people will say you stand (e.g., she stood for freedom and justice; he believed in always telling the truth, even when it wasn't what people wanted to hear; she dreamed of a world in which all children had access to quality health care)?
- What Feelings do you hope people will say they have/had when being with you or when thinking about you (e.g., she always made me feel I was capable of doing the impossible; he made me feel important)?
- What lasting Expressions or contributions — tangible and intangible — will people say that you leave, to them and to others yet to come (e.g.,, she is really the one who built this agency; his dedication to others' lives on in those homes he helped build every Saturday as he gave his time to Habitat for Humanity)?
- Review your L.I.F.E. responses above. As you consider what you wrote, what is the central theme in your leadership story? What's at the core of the legacy you want to leave; of how you want to be remembered? When the book on your leadership life is written, what will the central message be? (For example, I want to be remembered for how I enabled people to learn and grow. Or, my central theme is innovation. I want to be remembered for bringing new and creative ideas to life and work.)
- Living Your L.I.F.E. Review your central theme and the lessons, ideals, feelings, and expressions you have recorded. For each L.I.F.E. element noted above, write down at least one action you will take to integrate it into your life. What are you going to do to teach the lessons, model the ideals, generate the feelings, and create the expressions that you want? Most likely you'll need some additional sheets of paper to complete this exercise.
Copyright © 2009. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. All rights reserved.
Jim Kouzes is the Deans Executive Professor of Leadership, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. Barry Posner is Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business, where he served as Dean for 12 years, at Santa Clara University. Together they are authors of The Leadership Challenge and over a twenty other books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development.