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Leadership legacy

Beginning with President Reagan, each U.S. President has left a private letter in the Oval Office for the incoming President on inauguration day. In the Leadership and Coaching course that we’re teaching, a student wrote an interesting post integrating this idea with organizational leadership. Here is the post, shared with permission:

Something the other day reminded me of the White House tradition of outgoing presidents leaving a letter in the oval office for their successor. As we lead from any level in an organization, I had to ask myself: What would this tradition look like at other levels of leadership? What would I write and leave behind for somebody taking over my role?

It didn’t take long to come up with an answer – now that I’ve thought of it, I can’t “not” do it. So, today I will begin a “working” letter that I will keep updated until I have the opportunity to pass it on. I want to leave behind a narrative about each member of my team … with a twist. It’s going to be 100% positive. Strengths only. I want to highlight successes, great moments, memories, and wins that each person has been a part of. Go to him for this, and go to her for that. I want any future leader of my team to have a feel for what is best about each person.

As far as the negatives and weaknesses, that can and will surface on its own energy (not to mention personnel records). I prefer that anyone taking my role discover those attributes without my input and bias. Who knows, maybe in a transition some leaves will be turned. Why bring up attributes that have potentially met their end?

What’s in your letter to your successor?

Lead with Positive Desire

(This is a guest post from Justin Anderson. Justin is a Licensed Sport Psychologist and Principal of JSA Advising, a Minneapolis/St.Paul consulting firm that specializes in optimizing sustainable performance and harmony in family-owned businesses.  Justin’s worked with athletes/teams from all competitive levels, and over the past five years, he’s used those experiences to help family-businesses build thriving and sustainable legacies. Justin can be reached through JSA Advising. Thank you, Justin!)

What motivates you to act?  Contemporary thought can reduce human motivation into two basic modalities; fear and desire.  If you are like most, you will likely find that you do many things in your daily routine out of fear.  For example, many people get up in the morning with less than ideal sleep, not because they desire the feeling of being tired.  Rather, they do it because they “fear” the consequences of not getting up “on-time”.  For many, not getting up “on-time” means missing work and missing work means getting fired and getting fired could mean losing the house.

It’s not too often that we consciously connect all the dots.  Rather, we typically go through our routines automatically, because it’s what we “need” to do.   It’s why so many of us are tired, stressed, and anxious.  Taking consistent action through the fear perspective leads to higher levels of anxiety and tension which, over a longer period of time, leads to poorer health, less meaningful relationships, and a decreased ability to process information clearly.

In addition, taking action from the fear motivator can lead us to be critical of ourselves or those around us.  Negativity breeds negativity.  Like an out of control snowball, if you find that fear is your dominate motivator, than it’s likely that you could be contributing to a work place environment that is more judgmental and paranoid.  And a workplace that is judgmental and paranoid will create more negativity and fear.  Ultimate result: a work place where creativity and productivity is stifled or even frowned upon.

The solution to ending the negativity spiral can be found by developing a keener sense of self-awareness and self-accountability.  It calls for us to slow down and reflect on the “why” as we check-off our to-do lists.  It requires us to retrain our neural networks to focus on things we can control as well as to be able to let go of the things we cannot.  And, it requires us to focus our attention on the things for which we are grateful and that give us positive energy.

This final requirement is not as easy as it sounds.  The human mind instinctively wants to solve the “problems first”, a practice that served our ancestors well when they were looking for food and avoiding predators.  But today when our physiological needs are fairly secure, this type of thinking doesn’t do us any favors.  Instead, it creates a negative lens that primarily focuses on problems that we cannot control or those things that we are still “missing in our lives”.  Being able to retrain the brain to instinctively focus on the things we can control and are grateful for creates a greater sense of tranquility, thus relaxing the tension, opening the mind to new and innovated ways to get our needs met through our desire motivator.

Don’t abuse: Like all good things in this world, too much of a good thing can lead us right back down the negativity path again.  By suggesting that we operate out of our “desire” motivation, I’m not suggesting that we ignore all the rules and moral guidelines and become hedonistic.  Rather, I am simply pointing out that on the spectrum of motivation, many of us act far too often from fear. If we acted more firmly from our desire modality (within reason) we would also find that positivity is contagious.  Similar to how negativity can breed negativity, positivity and gratefulness can breed a healthy and energetic environment, fostering increased creativity, greater productivity, and more meaningful relationships.

If you are a leader or manager, consider what motivator drives your actions.

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