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From the Editors

From the Editors

What Do You Want Your Legacy to Be?

July 1, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

The immortal Princess Diana — who would’ve turned 50 today — graces Newsweek’s latest cover with a conspicuously odd detail. The cover features a computer-generated image of her as a 50-year-old casually strolling alongside the newly inducted Duchess of Cambridge.

On top of predicting how gracefully she would’ve aged over the years, the author of the piece attempts to piece together a puzzle of what her life might have been like if she were alive, including where she’d be living, who she’d be friends with on social network forums as well as predictions about her love life.

I get it. Newsweek wants to create a buzz — which it has, at least in the media — with a spin many would find controversial. But regardless of whether their gamble will be a boon or bust and leaving aside the ethical connotations for such a bold move, I personally believe they could have ditched the could’ve, should’ve, would’ve talk in favor of fleshing out her legacy.

I’d argue Diana was probably most famous for her compassion for the less fortunate, participating in myriad charity events and supporting causes close to her heart. That is her legacy. And that level of compassion didn’t die with her; her sons have since continued her philanthropic quest via “The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry.” But I guess that that won’t sell as many copies on the newsstand.

As a leader in your field, it’s important to focus on building your legacy – something you’ll be assessed on for generations to come or, better yet, something your successors will carry on. Management guru Marshall Goldsmith has discussed a similar concept in one of our recent columns. The question is: Have you identified the trait you want to leave behind and be known for — and how do your daily actions push you closer to that end?

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