5. Leadership in the Present

A Leader’s Legacy

“What is the best part of being a leader?” My answer stems fromLeadership in the Present sage guidance I once received that “A leader’s legacy is not what you accomplish but what is accomplished by those you led, once you depart.” The follow-up question is, “Did you provide Leadership in the Present, were you a formative part of their development, or just passing through on your way to the top?”

Leaders are often consumed with the details of setting conditions for success and overwhelmed with the day-to-day challenges of organizational management and survival. As such they are often mentally preoccupied with problem-solving and thoughts far away from the present. Although they may be physically engaging with those around them in the here and now, their participation is driven by addressing future needs and are often not mentally focused on the engagement itself. For them, the engagement is a vehicle to an end and not the end-state itself. However, ‘Leading in the Present’ means that each engagement is the end-state.

Are you engaged in the here and now?

Some of you may have had a similar experience where a junior leader expressed gratitude for your mentoring and how it helpfully shed light and direction on an issue they were confronting at the time; and, you were regretful for not having remembered the engagement or the ‘sage’ advice that you had given. Your ‘memorable’ comments were incidental to your objective at that time, but it turned out to be key to theirs. Your focus of the engagement was to solve your problem (or the organization’s) or set some future condition. Developing your junior leader was not your aim of the discussion.

Consequently, you were not really ‘leading in the present.’ Leadership is about these small-scale engagements; it’s how things get done. It’s your subordinate leaders and employees that accomplish the organization’s objectives, and as their senior leader, a principal goal should be their development.

Not recognizing the formidable nature of these small-scale engagements positions you poorly to leverage one of your more constructive opportunities – developing your human resource capital, your leaders, and employees. Good leaders can perform very well in one domain or the other (present vs. future).  Excellent leaders transition back and forth very well.  Great leaders consistently operate in both domains.


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