Holidaying in Whitby, a historical seaside resort in the North East of England, Bettina and I are slowly reaching a point by the harbour where I always stop for a moment and smile. It is where, over 50 years ago my mum (all of 5’2’’) raised me of the ground by the scruff of my neck and said “Stephen if you don’t start behaving yourself I am not going to sign your papers to join the Army” (a threat she always used to bring me back into line).
I think we had a unique relationship and even though she passed away 25 years ago, there is not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and we still repeat some of her phrases. A favourite was “Steve if your backside was decked out with diamonds you would find one that wasn’t polished.” What a legacy she left me, but you don’t have to wait until you die before you leave a legacy!
As a leader you want to make a dent in the world, to make a difference in people’s lives and leave the place where you live and/or work a better place than when you found it. Someone who does this, and from whom I have learned, is Bettina.
“I believe our legacy will be defined by the accomplishments and fearless nature by which our daughters and sons take on global challenges we face” Naveen Jain
Spending a week in our favourite place I thought about how Bettina leaves a legacy and how I can learn from her. These are the ‘Five Takeaways’ – this is Bettina’s legacy:
- Bettina lives her life with honesty. Bettina has an integrity, kindness and generosity and this is profound to the lives she touches.
- Material wealth is not important to Bettina and is not something that she places any value on (I have found that material wealth is not often what you are remembered for)
- People often remember and remark on her determination, commitment to develop and progress, and her work ethic – she is a shining example.
- Bettina is a change maker. If you check out this post you will see how Bettina changes her world and leaves a legacy
- Bettina’s high standards of politeness and etiquette (she expects these same standards from others too!). They are contagious. She is always remembered by the Hotel staff where we stay and I am sure that’s why she always gets the biggest dessert when it is served!
One of the guests at the hotel in Whitby said to Joyce that “Bettina holds herself so well – we could all learn a lot from her” We are always moved when someone compliments Bettina, it means so much to us that it is not just her family who thinks she is wonderful and that others are affected by her presence and the impact she has stays with them until we see them the following year.
If you want to create an enduring and positive legacy then here are our questions for you:
- What would you like to be remembered for?
- When someone thinks of you when you have moved on what will they say about you?
- Will your legacy be one that is positive?
- Did you change your environment for the better?
- What would people who know you put as your epitaph?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” Maya Angelou
Footnote. After my Mum’s threat I got a grip of my behaviour (I stopped being cheeky until I married Joyce) and at the age of 15 my mum signed my papers to join the Army 45 years ago. Thirty years ago Bettina was born during our posting in Berlin – and her legacy began.
Acknowledgement. ‘100 Things Successful People Do’ by Nigel Cumberland