I have been connected with the Church and public schools in the state of Texas for more than three decades. In those thirty-plus years, I’ve seen a tragedy happen over and over again. Students, teachers, and parents fail to reach their maximum potential.
I’ve listened as, one by one, students, their parents, and teachers parade through my office with stories of defeat, rejection, and isolation—stories of how they were cast aside by parents, spouses, and colleagues—how they’d been rejected by the Church, the school, and society as a whole. Though these heartbroken people were of different ethnicities and their situations not always the same, they all had two things that linked them together:
- troubled relationships in the home
- a lack of knowledge or relationship with Jesus Christ
Students confessed if they made straight A’s they were rewarded by their parents; if they made poor grades they were rejected. Athletes told me when they played well on Friday nights, their fathers were really loving and caring, but if they had a poor performance they were reprimanded and rejected. I heard numerous stories like these in my office played out in families that crossed every ethnicity and social background.
Leadership and Legacy
I’ve contemplated my experiences and analyzed the repeating problems I’ve seen through the years. From this I’ve come to believe that if those who are in leadership positions will change the standards by which they measure success, there will be a profoundly positive impact on the development of the people they encounter. In other words, I believe those in leadership positions should concentrate more on living and leaving a positive legacy.
Webster’s dictionary defines the word legacy as “money or material possessions left over to someone by will or bequest.” Yet I’ve seen many professional athletes sign multi-million dollar contracts thinking the money would improve their status in life, after a very short period of time find themselves bankrupt and suffering from depression. There are numerous accounts of parents who left enormous estates of wealth and property to their children and these estates become marred in bitter legal battles between siblings. I’ve witnessed parents save for years to provide college funding for their children and their children misappropriate the money and never earn a degree. I’ve studied this paradigm for a number of years and concluded that one’s legacy will never be centered on money or material possessions.
I believe that a person’s legacy is based on their character and how they choose to love and serve others.
Legacy Lived Out
In his book, Leadership 101, John Maxwell says that we speak and write a lot about the character traits of leadership, but we very seldom write or speak on the traits of legacy. It’s the one we know the least about.
Achievement is attained when a person accomplishes great things on their own. As a coach, I’ve seen gifted athletes, Running backs rush for 1,500 yards, Quarterbacks pass for 3,000 yards, and Wide Receivers have 1,800 yards of receptions in a season, these are major individual accomplishments! Success is gained when a person empowers others to accomplish great things with them. As a principal, I’ve seen master teachers help their students earn exemplary scores on national exams. A person may even find significance when they empower others to accomplish great things for them. I’ve seen gifted coaches take athletes of limited abilities and transform them into State and National Championship teams.
But a person leaves a deep, positive, long lasting legacy when he empowers others to accomplish great things without him.
In John 14:12 Jesus says:
“ The person who trusts in me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I’m on my way to the Father, and am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing.” (The Message)
As we encounter Jesus in Scripture this reoccurring theme was the central focus of His ministry—empowering others to do great things without Him! Jesus asked the disciples “who do you say that I am?” and Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” After Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus said, “Peter, you are the rock upon which I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:15-16). When Jesus held the demon-possessed boy and the disciples came to Jesus and asked why they couldn’t cast it out, Jesus said if you have the faith of a mustard seed you will move mountains and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:18-20).
The shortest distance to a great legacy is service.
Your legacy will never be measured by how many people who serve you. Your legacy will always be measured by the number of people you serve. The more people you serve the more valuable you become—to your family, your friends, coworkers, and the community you live in. In 1 Peter 4:10 chapter it says, every good and special gift you have received from God, and God has given each of you a unique and special that is like no other gift; that gift should be used in service to others.
1. What’s your legacy?
2. What positive legacy are you living and leaving today?