Legacy - 15 Inspiring Lessons on Leadership

Legacy by James Kerr is a wonderful distillation on leadership. It is built on the All Blacks rugby team but the lessons are applicable to all of us. Here are the 15 lessons I gleaned with my take on each.
Character - Never be too big to do all the small things. Basically as a leader you have to be humble with a ferocious will. Great leaders balance pride with humility. This is similar to the Level 5 leaders explained by Jim Collins. As a leader you need to do the right thing always. Vince Lombardi would start every game saying gentlemen this is a football. The takeaway is we should never ignore the basics or fundamentals. Having a vision without action is a dream and action without vision is a nightmare. So the key is moving towards your vision. Ethos is the word that represents character. Define the values of your organization and your personal values as leader as well.
Adapt: When you are doing great that is the time not to be complacent. If you are on top of the game change the game. Never think you have made it. Always be flexible and make sure to have the beginner’s mindset. At the height of your success make changes and be prepared for any turbulence. There are four key stages of organizational change. A case for change is first. The next is a compelling view of the future. Third they required a sustainable model for change. It also requires a learning environment. Finally the organizations need a credible plan to execute. Reassess your strategy when you are at the top. We have all heard the VUCA acronym which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. There is another hack which is OODA standing for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. As Charles Darwin said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
Purpose: Always ask why a lot. Why is what you are doing important? What is the purpose of your life? As Dan Pink says in his book Drive one of the keys to a successful career is to find your purpose. Simon Sinek says in his wonderful TED talk and book "Start with Why." The thesis is people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it. He says Martin Luther King had the "I have a dream" speech not "I have a plan" speech. Your motivation becomes intrinsic when your why is strong. As Victor Frankl said "What man actually needs is not a tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him."
Responsibility: Leaders create other leaders. Be a leader not a follower. Take complete responsibility for the results of the organization. If anything goes wrong the leaders take the blame. When things go well the leaders give credit away to the team. Leaders are responsible to develop leaders around them. Leaders create what is called a sense of inclusion. Tom Peters said “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” The whole purpose of all this is to create a culture of autonomy where people bring their best selves to serve the organization.
Learn: Create a learning environment for everyone in your team. The team that learns the most wins the most at the end. Mastery is the subject of this principle. Leaders are teachers. The only way to attain true mastery is through deliberate practice. For me the best books on this topic are Talent is Overrated and The Talent Code. Another key to mastery is to say no to unimportant so that you can say yes to the important. Steve Jobs famously said “I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do.”
Follow the spearhead: Fly in formation so that everyone moves in one direction. Everyone should be aligned towards a common vision of the organization. The team should always serve the larger cause. The strength of the wolf is the pack. Being a team player is one the keys to succeeding big in the 21st century. Having everyone row in the same direction will create the seeds of final victory.
Expectations: Always embrace high expectations for the team. Loss aversion is discussed here. We play not to lose. The research of Daniel Kahneman is sighted here. It is creating a high internal benchmark. As Michael Jordan has said he competes against what he is capable of. Leaders set high internal benchmarks. Set unrealistic expectations meaning you can create an affirmation that you are the best. Then you will perform to align with that expectation. Napoleon Hill famously said “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” Positive self-talk is good as long as it is backed with action. Aim for the highest and back it with massive action.
Preparation: The team that prepares the most wins at the end. If you prepare well then when the pressure moments emerge you will perform better. Bradman practiced with a golf ball on the wall and hitting it back with a cricket stump. If you haven’t heard of Donald Bradman check out his biography. He is probably the finest sportsman of all time. He has an average of 99.99 and to give some perspective the next best average in cricket is in the 60’s. He is probably the best ever that played the game. This is the ability to perform under pressure so you need training on mental toughness. “Everyone has the will to in but you need the will to prepare to win.” Bear Bryant. As Bruce Lee said “I don’t bother about the person who practiced 10000 kicks once but I do worry about the person who practiced 1kick 10000 times.”
Pressure: Control your attention. Every day matters. Under pressure your attention is diverted. This is also called cognitive tunneling where you are not able to think clearly when the pressure is on. You should develop situational awareness to handle pressure. If we control our thoughts we can control our performance under pressure. You want to avoid the flight or freeze mindset. The ability the stay in the present moment is the key to thriving and leading under pressure. Even mantras or affirmations with strong positive words can transform the way you feel. The ability to stay calm amidst the pressure moments is what separates the great leaders from the rest.
Authenticity: Know yourself. This is the oldest advice and it is still a valid principle for leadership. Once you know what your strengths are you can align your work accordingly. You can delegate the tasks on your weakness and the strengths of others. Knowing yourself will also give you a strong sense of identity. As Buckminster Fuller asked “What is my job on the planet.” As Steve Jobs said your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Honesty and Integrity are the twin qualities needed for authentic leadership. Every morning do the things you set out to do. Identify your deepest values and align your vision to match that.
Sacrifice: Find a cause that you are willing to die for and give your life to it. Champions do the extra and that is why they are extraordinary. All the time we are giving on our work or our lives is a sacrifice of our time. Stephen Covey’s principle begin with end in mind is a perfect example of creating a life that you want.
Language: Let your ears listen. Write your own language. Create a playbook for your team and have a set of principles to live by. Here the example of the black book for the All Blacks team was given as an example. For them the jersey was more important than the name on the jersey. Leaders are excellent story tellers. Stories are the way we find meaning in life. Mike Markkula gave three principles that Apple can live by. This was mentioned in the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. They are empathy which is keeping the end user in mind, focus which is saying no to all unimportant things and finally impute which is people pay attention to the looks so make it appealing.
Rituals: Create a culture of winning rituals for your organization. Walmart has a Saturday morning ritual which has been there for decades. For example you can have a team lunch every Friday. The haka is a ritual for the All Blacks. Rituals can create meaning for everyone on the team.
Be a good ancestor: Plant a shade tree under which you may never sit. Live by your highest standards. As Steve Jobs said make a dent in the universe. John Wooden said "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." Paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw carry the torch now making it burn as brightly as possible and hand it over to future generation to carry on from where you left.
Legacy: Write your legacy. As I wrote in my earlier post live your legacy. You can check it out here. Live your Legacy
This is such an inspiring book and has covered the entire gamut of leadership in my opinion. I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.

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