Before we start – please take a moment to consider this exercise. Visualize yourself for a moment many years ahead of your present status as a leader:
Imagine that you are attending your retirement gathering. The people assembled are there to celebrate your retirement from the organization. After many accumulated years, your leadership within the organization will be passed to your successor. You have had many individuals under your guidance over the years. You have affected many lives. The room where the celebration is taking place is filled with significant respect, but also a sadness that a transition is about to happen now that you are retiring. Your reach is vast. You have at least two generations of individuals you have influenced, that came far and wide to celebrate your milestone.
The Footprint You Hope to Make
If you took a moment and envisioned your retirement, hopefully you envisioned the kind of impact you would liked to have made by that time. The opportunity you take now to evaluate the kind of impact you are making now, could lead you to consider the kind of action, or change that needs to be made now. Was the visualization a comfortable, or unnerving experience?
Some Questions to Ask Yourself
What type of impact do you want to make in your organization?
Even if you don’t have a formal title, how still have you been a leader?
Is your leadership style about building a sense of meaning, or about just having the prestige?
What weaknesses do you possess that could be addressed in the future?
Generativity vs. Isolation
The human development theorist Erik Erikson is widely known for the concept of lifespan stages of development, and their component tasks at each stage of the lifespan. One of the last stages that Erikson proposed was Generativity vs. Isolation. In other words, do we look back/and/forward with richness, appreciation, continued contribution? Or, do we reach a point in our future, where the footprints we make in our leadership journey suggest hollow, and unfulfilled dreams, missed opportunity, and isolation? Did you focus on the wrong things too long. Struggled too long without tangible results? Finally, did we enrich others, mentor them, make good leaders?
The Impact We Make
We may not realize it, but in the course of our career, we have thousands of opportunities to influence and leave significant contributions in the course of our interactions. If we have left a good footprint, others that have been influenced will carry our presence forward into the future. You may not realize it, but the little ways that you have influenced others for the good, gradually enlarge your reach and your impact on others. You might be surprised.
There are Good and Bad
Without sounding too dichotomous, we have all been influenced by the good and the bad leader, good supervisor, or poor mentor. Hopefully, we have carried a few of the good leadership examples forward with us, which in turn influence those we lead positively. It is important to retrospectively consider who influenced us, and why. It would be far preferable for others to consider how our actions impacted and influenced the footprints they are making.
Course Adjustment or Wake up Call
Your leadership journey is about considering carefully how you would want to be considered after many years. It is never too late for course adjustments to change, or to even evaluate whether you making the right imprint or “footprint” on others.