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A Leader’s Legacy Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner

In A Leader’s Legacy, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, best-selling authors of The Leadership Challenge, explore the topics of leadership and legacy and the questions that leaders must ask themselves when striving to make a difference.

Legacy thinking requires leaders to take a step back and consider what type of legacy they are leaving behind. Important questions for leaders to ask themselves are, “What kind of difference do I want to make? and “How do I want to be remembered?”. These questions are not to be asked for self-serving purposes, but rather, with the realization and appreciation that others will inherit what is left behind.

Exceptional leaders consider where “we’ve been, where we are today, and where we are going”. They

realize that leading is about what others gain from them, not what they gain for themselves.

striving to leave a lasting legacy, it is with the desire to leave, knowing that they’ve left things in “better shape” than when upon arrival. This could be in reference to a team, workplace, committee,

community, even our world.


It is important to know that we can all make a difference, regardless of our title, position or place in an organization or the world.

The book, A Leader’s Legacy, is made up of 22 chapters, grouped into the following four categories:

Significance, Relationships, Aspirations and Courage.

Part 1 – Significance

“Exemplary leaders are interested more in others’ success than in their own. Their greatest achievements are the triumphs of those they serve. Knowing they have made a difference in others’ lives is what motivates their own, giving leaders the strength to endure hardships, struggles, and inevitable sacrifices required to achieve great things. Leaders who see their role as serving others leave the most lasting legacies.”

Chapters included under this category are:

1 Leaders Serve and Sacrifice

2 The Best Leaders are Teachers

3 We All Need Loving Critics

4 You Are the Most Important Leader in your Organization

5 No One Likes to Be an Assumption

Part 2 – Relationships

“Leadership is a relationship. It’s a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. Whether the relationship is with one or many, leadership requires engaging others. No matter how much formal power and authority our positions give us, we’ll only leave a lasting legacy if others want to be in that relationship with us.”

Chapters included under this category are:

6 Leadership is Personal

7 Leaders Should Want to Be Liked

8 When You Don’t See Eye to Eye, Seek to Understand

9 You Can’t Take Trust for Granted

10 Let Your People Go

Part 3 – Aspirations

“A lasting legacy is built on a firm foundation of principles and purpose. That means that leadership development is first and foremost self-development.”

At the same time, “if we are going to leave a legacy that means something to others, you have to think about what they want and what they aspire to achieve. Leadership isn’t about selling your vision; it’s about articulating the people’s vision.”

Chapters included under this category are:

11 Lead from the Inside Out

12 Forward-Looking is a Leadership Prerequisite

13 It’s Not Just the Leader’s Vision

14 Liberate the Leader in Everyone

15 Leaders are Followers, Too!

Part 4 – Courage

“Leaving a legacy is about making a difference. Leaders need to have the courage to take a stand on things that matter.”

Chapters included under this category are:

16 There’s Courage in All of Us

17 You Can’t Plan to Be Courageous, But You Can Choose It

18 It Takes Courage to Make a Life

19 The Courage to Be Human

20 Failure is Always an Option

21 No Money-Back Guarantee

22 Afterword: The Legacy You Leave Is the Life you Lead


i Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2006). A Leader’s Legacy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.