In our leadership workshop, I will often ask our students what they think the likelihood is that their business will exist in 100 years.
Most of them, if they’re being honest, answer “not likely.” And they’re right. The odds of any business lasting more than 100 years are pretty low. It’s not impossible for a business to last 100 years, and it does happen, but it doesn’t happen often. And even if it does, there’s a good chance the business is fundamentally different than the one that started so long ago.
Why do I ask this question? It’s not to depress our students by forcing them to face into the futility of creating something permanent, nor is it to suggest that their current leadership efforts don’t matter in the long run. In fact, I ask it by way of suggesting there should be a bigger cause – a mission if you will – for any type of leadership activities or intentions.
In 100 years, your business may be gone, but your influence may indeed still be around, in ways that are more important than any specific business outcome could measure. If your leadership is strong and good, and integrous, if you strive to always benefit the lives of the people in your organization and the lives of their communities, your leadership influence might very well last for 100 years or more.
Think of your legacy as a leader in terms of the 100-year view. Your leadership should help achieve company success, but it should also transcend the limited scope of that measurement. You are, in your actions right here and now, leading people who have yet to be born. For them, your leadership may help create the possibility of a healthy family life, a healthy community, and a healthy and just culture.