This is my dad, Nana Nyantakyi Amponsem II. His legacy type is The Pathfinder. He is 84 and a very successful retired Ghanaian lawyer, politician, philanthropist, entrepreneur, chief, and banker. As we are now in October, (traditionally Black History Month here in the UK) and as we mourn our beloved Queen Elizabeth II, it set me thinking on one issue that we as leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners often relegate to the back of our mental queue.
Legacy is a strange word. It’s had so many definitions and has been used in so many contexts, that it’s almost lost its original meaning.
We often think of legacy solely in terms of someone who’s passed or died and left some money, business or property in a will.
But the truth is legacy goes way beyond that. We are leaving a legacy every day, every moment with any decision and contact that we make.
This thought struck me hard in the last three months or so.
Working as a freelance pharmacist with a medium pharmacy group, we took on a contract with the NHS to join the national vaccination effort in the UK against flu and the coronavirus.
Over the past year, I have personally vaccinated, or directly supervised the vaccination of tens of thousands of people who have bravely and stoically travelled sometimes hundreds of miles to have the jab.
And my contact with every one of them has been literally one minute or less. But that one minute had the potential to completely change or save their lives.
Isn’t that what legacy is about?
Leaving something from you that can potentially change somebody else’s life?
For every customer that buys your product, uses your service, hears your podcast, reads your story on social media, listens to you speak, or meets you at a gig, you are leaving a little bit of your legacy.
Life is full of little legacies.
In my #1 bestselling book, Pay The Price: Creating Ethical Entrepreneurial Success Through Passion, Pain, and Purpose, ¹ I argue that there are two categories of legacy an entrepreneur can leave – A Power Legacy OR a Place Legacy.
The Power Legacy describes a situation in which the CEO or entrepreneur’s legacy rests solely on his achievements apart from the company.
The Place Legacy describes a situation in which the CEO or entrepreneur is remembered primarily for what the company has achieved. In other words, she is remembered for what brought her fame in the first place.
Within these two legacy types, the entrepreneur or leader can leave a good or bad legacy.
So from these fundamental categories, we can discern four legacy types as summarised in the Legacy Grid ² below:
The Philanthropist – Good Power, Bad Place: The entrepreneur or CEO has a good personal legacy, but a not-so-good business or organisational legacy. In other words, his legacy rests solely on his achievements. A typical example of such an entrepreneur or leader would be Jimmy Carter, America’s 39th president. There’s the age-old cliché that his presidency was largely a failure, but he has set the standard for ex-presidents with his writing, his philanthropy, and the founding of the Carter Centre.
The Purist – Good Place, Bad Power: The entrepreneur or CEO has a not-so-good or non-existent personal legacy, but has succeeded in building or leading a thriving company or organisation. His legacy lies solely within the company he has built or the organisation he has founded or led. A typical example of this kind of legacy would be Apple Founder and CEO Steve Jobs who was not known for his philanthropy commitment to the environment or diversity but will be forever etched in the history books as one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs who has ever lived.
The Profligate – Bad Power, Bad Place: The entrepreneur or CEO has left a bad personal legacy and a failed business or organisational legacy. Jeffrey Epstein, the founder of the now defunct Intercontinental Assets Group, a convicted paedophile and financial criminal fits this kind of legacy perfectly.
The Pathfinder – Good Power, Good Place: The good legacy of the entrepreneur or CEO lies both with the organisation he founded and/or led and with his achievements outside the organisation. Strive Masiywa, the UK’s first black billionaire, and founder of Econet and Cassava Technologies also founded the Higher Life Foundation which has sponsored hundreds of thousands of orphaned Africans to get a good education. Bill Gates, through Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is another example.
So, as an entrepreneur, a coach, a business owner, a CEO, or a leader, do you ever think of the legacy you're leaving?
My dad has. As well as being a very successful entrepreneur, lawyer, and politician, he has been an excellent husband, and a brilliant father not only to my brother and me, but to hundreds of poor Ghanaian children to whom he and my mother have provided education, shelter, encouragement, mentorship, and financial help. Not to mention the hundreds of pro-bono cases he has taken on where the clients could not afford to pay the legal fees.
So as Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant says:
The ultimate test of success is not whether you’re proud of what you have achieved. It's whether you’re proud of who you’ve become. Accomplishments highlight your skills. Relationships highlight your values. If excellence is what you do, then the character is what you do for others.
The Pathfinder legacy = Excellence + Character.
This is the legacy we should all strive for. The raison d’etre of success.
Just like Nana Nyantakyi Amponsem II.
My 84-year-old dad.
PS. To learn more about how you can leave a pathfinder legacy, be sure to check out my new #1 bestseller, Pay The Price, which gives an extensive framework, complete with questions and reflections, on the topic of ethical entrepreneurship, success, and legacy.
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