“Most people associate leaving a legacy with some great achievement that will last forever and a classic example of that is Steve Jobs,” Gaster told HC. “Did that man leave a legacy? Clearly, but he didn’t do it alone [despite] the media coverage.”
This creation of a fiction around an organisation’s legacy – focused on an individual – is prominent in many organisations. To help combat this, Gaster indicated that leadership structures in an organisation need to warm to the idea of teams. With a ‘leadership team’ in place, the tone for the organisation’s culture as one of collaboration can be established.
“It becomes part of the everyday and people are encouraged to connect their own purpose and their own passions towards the higher purpose and the higher vision then they can indeed leave a legacy behind,” she said.
Gaster added that organisations and HR must recognise and subsequently communicate that legacy building is about every action, no matter how small – including an employee simply making a suggestion for a slight alteration, as it may impact many individuals in the organisation.
Key HR takeaways
When looking towards building a legacy, HR should turn their attention to a few key areas:
Storytelling. The narrative of the organisation itself is something many can identify with, within and outside an organisation. These stories will impact how the organisation is perceived and more importantly, how its employees will act. “What are the stories told in the organisation? Are they ones of innovation? Are they around creativity and actually making a difference to each other?” Gaster explained.
Redefine leadership. If the organisation is focused on individual leaders, then this will result in employees becoming fearful of innovation. Instead, organisations should move towards leadership teams who can then shape a collaborative culture.
Recognise and reward. In traditional management structures, reward is often passed squarely to those at the top, while those further down are met with less reward, despite often engaging in gruelling work. By redefining the way rewards are distributed throughout an organisation, Gaster feels HR may begin to see their lower-ranking employees more intent on helping build a corporate legacy.
Does your company have a legacy? How do you feel about Gaster’s comments and ideas?
Organisations need leaders, but excessive emphasis on the leader and not the team can dilute an organisation’s legacy, warns Roma Gaster, director at The Leadership Circle Asia Pacific.