Sunday, March 16, 2014

Quote-A-Day: Day 75

Legacies are left by those who "do," not those who tell others to "do."

I had the chance to read a cool little piece in the NYT Mag this weekend (you can find it here).  Called "15 Minutes of Fame? Try 1,500 Years," (this was the printed title) this piece by Dwight Garner harnesses the power of MIT's data crunching to plot out the "most famous" folks who fit into a number of different categories.  It's really interesting to look at, and it tends to speak to two main conclusions (or at least these were the conclusions I took from it):

1.  The longer you're remembered, the stronger your legacy.  So, in the case of Aristotle or Isaac Newton, for instance, since their ideas are so ingrained in life today, their "fame" is quite high.

2.  In order to build a solid legacy, you have to actually contribute something lasting to society.  So, for example, Homer is much higher on the "fame" scale than Justin Bieber (sorry, beliebers).

There is a sobering piece to this, however.  And it is one that all leaders and learners should remember.  One's legacy-building capacity, and even one's "leadership" level, are not necessarily tied to one's righteousness.  Adolf Hitler is ranked one place above Mozart, in terms of fame.  This shows that even the most deplorable people like Hitler can serve as leaders in certain conditions.

What can we take from this?  One idea is that if we hope to be the best leaders we can be, we have to make sure we "do" as much as we "speak."  Action makes change, and if we hope that our organizations are better with us in them, we have to take positive risks.  Another idea is that we have to do whatever is in our power to prevent those who shouldn't be leading from doing so.  This means that we must be bodyguards to our organizations, communities, and stakeholders-at-large, and do whatever we can to make sure that improvement is always on the horizon.

Garner, Dwight.  (2014).  Who's More Famous Than Jesus?  New York Times Magazine.  March 16.

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