Mentoring and Legacy

Last week Barbara Walters was rightfully celebrated leading up to her retirement from active time in front of the camera. She may well still do an occasional interview and special when called upon by ABC, but she has entered retirement for the time being.

A number of stories, images, ideas, challenges, etc., came up as she reminisced and was celebrated. The one I want to reflect on today comes from one of the closing statements she gave on the show that she started, “The View.” With a host of women news anchors, journalists and reporters gathered around her, she acknowledged them as being “her legacy.” What does this mean? What might this mean?

I believe that this statement about legacy speaks to opportunity and mentoring. There is a connection of one’s legacy with the opportunity they helped create for others and the formal and informal mentoring they may have provided others. In this sense, a legacy isn’t necessarily all about the individual and what they did. One’s legacy is and can really be about the individual in relationship with others.

Barbara Walters' Legacy. Photo credit to Ida Mae Astute, via Getty Images.
Barbara Walters’ Legacy. Photo credit to Ida Mae Astute, via Getty Images.

Because of Barbara Walters for example, many of these people in this picture had an opportunity to serve, lead, or be in this profession. They may have been given advice or a chance directly by Ms. Walters.  Perhaps they had been encouraged because of the work that Walters did and opportunities that she paved the way for. These and other likely scenarios explain the legacy aspect of it. Ms. Walters was the first woman to anchor/co-anchor a network evening newscast, and as she admitted, that failed. But, given the length, depth, and legacy, she was and is no failure. Her persistence in asking the questions, and in sharing the stories are also part of her legacy.

So what might this mean about mentoring? What might we be able to learn about mentoring from this?

1) Leaders after you

Leadership, much like life, is temporary and changing. You yourself will not be in one particular leadership role forever. You will be remembered for how you served in your leadership capacity. But you will also be remembered for how you helped others grow as leaders (or not), how you perhaps helped “groom” them, and/or more accurately “mentor” them. If you are effective in helping grow leaders around you, its very likely that you have been (and are) an effective mentor who not only can see gifts in others and help provide them opportunities, you take/took a vested interest in their lives, interests and success. It matters to you that they do well, and so you do/did what you can to help make that a reality.

Think of your favorite teachers from school or any other program that you have been a part of. They likely would fit well as examples of this. (Many of the people who come to mind for me I will be reaching out to, hoping they will share some thoughts about mentoring in upcoming guest posts.)

2) Helping shape the future

This builds off of the previous point. In addition to helping raise and grow leaders who will help lead and shape the future, your thoughts and ideas are conveyed through them and also through the lessons that you give/gave in word and deed. Perhaps you wrote or write a book, essay, blog and shared insights and lessons. Or, perhaps by he way you lead, you help others live a bit more hopefully, healthily, honestly, and lovingly?

Perhaps Peter Drucker is an example of this when it comes to leadership thought. The “Father of Modern Management,” seems to be experiencing a bit of a re-emergence or a new interest among younger leaders. I think this has some thing to do with the success of Jim Collins. Jim Collins with his book Good to Great, among others, may have the most fame now among current leadership writers. If you read his material though, he credits much of it to his time with and study with Peter Drucker and his themes and ideas are very conversant with Drucker’s. This is an example then of one leader helping shape the future (and other younger leaders).

3) Leaving the world a better place

More broadly, one’s legacy is often tied to the way the world remembers them or was touched by them. This can be seen through what they did, but its also often done through the way the world was touched and shaped because of them. The ideas, hopes, and dreams they shared. The people they inspired and who were shaped and changed because of them. When a leader ends their time in leadership, the whole goal should be that they left their role or office as well, and ideally better, than when they entered it. If that’s the case, they have left the world a better place and that is a goal- no matter what you believe (or don’t) from a faith standpoint.

To close this point, let me say thank you to Barbara Walters for her hard work, persistence and dedication to her calling and craft. That has inspired many, including myself.

Looking ahead here on the blog, as mentioned about a month ago, I have interest in a series of guest posts about mentoring. That series will be beginning in early June. By then, a number of professors, pastors, students and friends who I will be asking to share thoughts will have a bit more free time after the end of the academic/program year. Look forward to that, and until then, think about what you see are the connections between mentoring and legacy. What do you think?

For more thought about these topics check out:

Jean Lipman-Blumen, The Connective Edge: Leading in an Interdependent World(San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996), particularly pages 184-191.

Dan Rockwell, “Peter Drucker’s 9 Functions of a Mentor.”  14 May 2014.

Image Credits: Barbara Walters’ Legacy


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