The Law of Legacy

Published 10:50 pm Thursday, March 1, 2018

Have you given much thought to how you will be remembered once you are gone? Some famous celebrities have given us a smile at their departure from earth and at the same time reminded us of their legacies. For instance, Rodney Dangerfield’s epitaph reads “There goes the neighborhood,” and Jackie Gleason’s tombstone states: “And away we go.” Others, such as Richard Nixon, have left us with more serious thoughts in which to convey their legacies. His epitaph reads: “The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.”

The truth of the matter is whether we want to claim a legacy or not, we all have one that we will leave behind. Jim Rohn once said: “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.” So today, let’s talk about the potential legacy of our leadership.

In “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” John Maxwell states: “A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.” That’s the Law of Legacy. As leaders, who and what we lead in the here and now is just the beginning. If our leadership lives on beyond our time here on earth, let’s hope we have done the work to create a positive legacy that causes others to succeed beyond our own abilities.


Email newsletter signup

One concept that John references in the book is the concept of having a life sentence. A life sentence is a purpose statement for your life. For instance, right now as I am building a women’s ministry, my life statement is: “Helping women of faith become leaders in the faith.” Those nine words completely describe my current focus. Over time or during another stage in my life, the sentence may change some, but for now it is completely accurate.

As John so succinctly puts it: “Someday people will summarize your life in a single sentence. My advice: pick it now!”

We would also be wise to remember the type of legacy we leave, whether positive or negative, is completely our choice. We can choose to strategically build a legacy that we are proud to pass on. Let’s look at some keys to doing so.

  • Know the legacy you want to leave. What area of business are you attempting to succeed at? Where does your passion lie? What lasting effect do you want to have on people?
  • Live the legacy you want to leave. No one has ever left a legacy that wasn’t deeply intertwined with the person they really were. People will not equate something about you if they don’t see it in you.
  • Choose who will carry on your legacy. Probably one of the most overlooked steps to legacy building is choosing a successor. Remember, succession is key to creating a notable legacy. Who do you need to start investing in today for your work to continue tomorrow?
  • Make sure you pass the baton. Lastly, let go! Just as runners in a relay race must pass the baton from one runner to the next for the race to continue, leaders must hand over their experience and the purpose that sustained them to someone else so that their life work continues even after they are gone.

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” —Abraham Lincoln

Well, there you have it! We’ve covered all 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have. Here’s to your leadership success!

Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Replies can be sent to