Who Are You Becoming?
For business coach and psychologist Andrew Thorn, the goal in life should not be to achieve a work/life balance that he believes was never meant to exist. After all, as he writes in his inspirational new book, Leading with Your Legacy in Mind: Building Lasting Value in Business and Life, work is about quantity (salaries, financial results, purchases you can afford), while life is about quality; and no matter what we do, we will spend most of our waking hours on work. Instead of an impossible and unnecessary work/life balance, Thorn argues that it is better to strive to achieve a legacy that emerges from making the most of both life and work.
The term “legacy” is often misunderstood, he writes. Legacy is also, like life, measured as a quality, not a quantity. “It is measured by what we learn and by who we become as a result of our learnings,” he writes, not by “quantities of stuff we accumulate.” Instead of something that is simply left behind, legacy is something that is created every day and that “encompasses your past, present and future.”
In short, he explains, your legacy “is not about what you are doing or about how much money you are making. Instead, it is about who you are becoming and how you are influencing others to live up to their own legacy.”
Why Purpose Is Better Than Passion
Having established the concept of legacy as a journey rather than the left-behinds of a life, Thorn helps map that journey through 10 “legacy arcs” that move us in the right direction. At the left side of each arc are the behaviors and tendencies that, he writes, “makes us attractive to our employers, peers and direct reports, but… do not shape our impact or create our legacy.” For that, he urges us to move to the behaviors and tendencies on the right side of the arc.
For example, instead of passion, which can lead to obsession, excess, a lack of control, and a distraction from other important facets of our lives, Thorn proposes a focus on purpose. Purpose is a much more reliable guide, he writes, because “it gives us the ‘why’ for what we do each day… Purpose gives us the focus we need in order to ensure that the work we are doing is aligned with our priorities.”
The arc from passion to purpose is the first of four legacy arcs that helps us align who we are as leaders with our deepest desires and priorities. The other three alignment arcs are change to growth, goals to aspirations and balance to focus. For collaboration and connecting “our hopes and strengths with those of the people we collaborate with in the workplace,” Thorn proposes a shift from accepting to understanding, discussion to dialogue and listening to hearing.
The final three legacy arcs — from success to significance, ambition to meaning and growing older to growing whole — help us understand the true purpose of our work, he writes. “This makes it possible for us to see the big picture so that we can use our enlightened understanding to better identify how our work-related actions are contributing to our leadership legacy.”
To solidify the practical lessons of these chapters, Thorn uses numerous real-world examples and finishes each chapter with “key leadership lessons” and a leadership questionnaire.
Journey Through the Four Seasons
Of course, no one acts in a vacuum. In the third section of the book, Thorn discusses through the metaphor of the four seasons the environmental conditions and circumstances that affect our legacy-making efforts: our early “spring” years of followership; the middle “summer” years when we’re assigned formal leadership jobs; and eventually the “fall” time of harvest, when we gather the fruits of our work for sustaining purposes and, Thorn writes, “share our yield with others through carefully selected acts of service.” Then comes the dormant “winter” period, a time of renewal or satisfied retirement.
For readers of personal development or inspirational books, many of the terms such as “growth” or “dialogue” or even “significance” in Leading with Your Legacy in Mind will likely be familiar. Yet, Thorn’s insightful and sometimes contrarian approach to leadership legacy combined with the clarity and succinctness of his framework will make the most jaded readers sit and rethink whether it’s time to reset their professional priorities and goals.