Panelists Share 6 Tips to Build Your Legacy during 'Leadership Breakfast'

Rasmussen College focused on legacy leadership—what it means and how you achieve it—during its 4th Annual Leadership Breakfast Oct. 30 at Vadnais Heights Commons in Minnesota.

More than 400 community members attended the 3-hour breakfast to visit with 11 nonprofit organizations, hear an inspirational speech from Carla Beaurline, founder and host of “Around Town” T.V., participate in a networking activity and listen to a 4-person panel discussion focused on legacy leadership.

Panelists included:

  • Mona Dohman, Minnesota commissioner of public safety
  • Virginia Morris, Hubbard Radio LLC chair and CEO
  • Trudy Rautio, Carlson president and CEO
  • Tom Tefft, Medtronic senior vice president

Here are six tips from the panel discussion on how to build and sustain your legacy:

1. Your legacy stems from someone who has influenced or inspired you

We all hope to have somebody in our lives that has influenced our lives so much that it has lit a fire within us. Both Rautio and Dohman chose Mother Theresa as the person who most inspired them, due to her ability to fight for people—usually much poorer than her—and single-handedly change the world.

“I hope to emulate most of how she lived her life,” Dohman said.

However, inspiration doesn’t necessarily come from someone well-known, or of power or fame. Sometimes the people who help us create our legacy are the people who helped shape us since birth.

“I was inspired by my late father,” Tefft added. “He had a sense of intellectual curiosity, and embraced getting to know a variety of people. He taught me to see the power of diversity in both personal and professional settings, and showed how it makes you a richer, broader leader and person. Diversity makes life a lot more interesting.”

2. Identify what you value as a leader & assess what it means for your legacy

Do you know what you value? Is it honesty, intelligence or being humble? Do you value a corporate culture that gives back to its community? It’s important to look within to find what is most important to you. Once you’ve nailed down the values you cherish the most, you can decide where it will fit into your legacy.

“I think your values define who you are and you should find an organization or company that has similar values as yours [for true success and happiness],” Rautio said.

Remember, there’s only one person that knows what’s right for you, and that’s you. “We need to encourage ourselves and others to hold up the mirror and be comfortable with what is looking back at us,” Tefft added.

3. Families play a role in who you are & help create your legacy

Believe it or not, whether you were the first or last child in your family and the type of parenting your parents were plays into who you are today. Your legacy is created from all aspects of your life—friends, family and jobs—and if you can pinpoint what you’ve taken with you from your family year to year, it may help in growing your legacy.

“I was the middle of five kids; my father instilled in me to always do the right thing, and that it doesn’t matter if you don’t get the business [or sale you were seeking],” Morris said. “While raising my own family I’ve taught my children to take it as it comes, that no decision is final and you’ll get through it. In most situations, you can have it all.”

The panelists also discussed balance. Whether or not you have balance plays a part in your legacy. Dohman said faith, family and career are the areas in which she tries to balance every day. However, Tefft said he grew up with a family that lived all over the world and balance was not a huge factor in his legacy.

No matter if you’re the type of person who needs balance in your life or not, it’s important to know you have support. Support often comes from family and that support can allow you to move mountains. Both Dohman and Rautio both stressed the importance of having support from spouses, and encouraged people to find their ideal family situation.

4. Always try to inspire ambition in your role

No matter what career you have, you are given an opportunity on a daily basis to mentor or inspire another person. The inspiration might not be through words, but actions. You should strive for this, as you might not realize the impact you have on another’s life, as well as your legacy.

“Curt Carlson, the founder of Carlson Companies, always had a goal,” Rautio said. “Until the day he died he carried goals around in his pocket with him.”

Setting a goal is important, no matter how attainable or not it may seem at the time. Learning how to simplify things can inspire others.

“When I started working for the state [of Minnesota], I decided to do the same as when I was police chief [in Maple Grove],” Dohman said. “I worked hard, was honest and treated everybody the way they wanted to be treated. I weave all of this into my daily life as often as I possibly can.”

Additionally, sharing your leadership qualities at work might be motivation to others. It’s important to be authentic and as candid as possible. Try to be a good example for others. Show up to work every day, be consistent and align with the mission you’re trying to accomplish.

5. Seek out mentors with whom you don’t yet have a connection

Mentors are around us everywhere and they have the opportunity to impact your life and legacy in a big way. Maybe your mentor helps you with career decisions so you feel more confident when making a choice. Wouldn’t you like to continue finding mentors to positively impact your life and legacy? There are many places to look for additional mentors, such as chamber of commerce offices or taking classes.

“Visit nonprofits and get involved with volunteering, become involved with various boards and get to know people on those boards,” Rautio said. “If you have a target industry, find ways to connect to that industry.”

Make sure to always be thinking about how you can make those connections. If you don’t have a mentor, you should. And if you’re not mentoring someone, you should be. Morris also encouraged people to seek out mentors outside of their own gender or ethnic group.

6. Keep in mind what you want your legacy to be

Have you ever thought about what you want to be remembered for? Maybe it was your positive attitude, your ability to network, your parenting. Try to keep in mind your end result; it could result in making better decisions.

Tefft would like part of his legacy to be reflected in his children. “I want my children to grow up to be strong, have high moral competency, integrity and ethics,” Tefft said. “I hope at the end of the day they’ll trump anything I do professionally.”

Others hope they were selfless, or that their company is able to continue to prosper without them there. Rautio hopes her legacy reflects the sustainability initiatives she fostered while at Carlson.

The takeaway

Legacy leadership is how we share our unique legacy with the world and is a gift to current and future leaders. Leaving a legacy is not necessarily about leaving something behind but impacting those around you through your leadership skills.

Have you thought about what you want your legacy to be? Leave a comment below.

About the author

Jennifer Pfeffer

Jennifer is a Content Marketing Specialist at Collegis Education who researches and writes articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She is passionate about learning and higher education and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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