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What Will Your Legacy Be?

I was half listening to the corporate anthropologist (I mean – really!) talking about culture when he said something that grabbed my attention.

It was the reason he gave for why talented people stay in their roles. It really surprised me. A lot. It might surprise you, too.

It was during a gathering at Hunter Valley of 150 of Australia’s most senior advertising/media executives for a short, sharp session about the future of the industry – trends, challenges, opportunity.

An early hot topic was talent – how to find great talent, and keep it. Michael Henderson, a culture expert, took the stage and shared many insights. What really resonated were the five top reasons why top talent chose to stay with an organization. It was enlightening.

It’s the number one driver that surprised me the most. What do you think about this as the reason that the most talented people stay with their organisations?

The number one driver, by far, for talented people to stay in their roles is that they want to leave a legacy.

I like that. It makes sense. On reflection, it’s clear the best people I’ve worked with have been absolutely driven to make a difference and make a mark. It’s rarely about themselves and their personal brands. It’s almost always about the team, what they can achieve, great work, great relationships, growth, leadership, innovation, recognition.

This is what creates the ‘mystical power of we’– when you get a small group of talented and driven executives working together to create something special. Big things happen. They change the game. It’s intoxicating and addictive while it lasts. And they leave a legacy which genuinely lives on. And of which they are enormously proud. Always.

Quickly, before I ask you a key question, here are the next four drivers of why talented people stay in their roles:

  1. Sense of belonging – they want to work with other talented people; they don’t want to be the best – they want to work alongside the best.
  2. They want personal growth – self-actualisation; they strive to discover who they are, and what they can become
  3. A long way behind the other three, the rank or title
  4. And last, the money.

Organisations where talent retention is the highest tend to have three common attributes: a) leaders worth following, b) work worth doing, and c) a culture worth contributing to. Leaders worth following, by the way, are generally those who have credibility to be in their roles, and who are approachable.

And talented people usually quit (oh, they might tell you it’s for the money, but that’s not true – you’re so unapproachable they don’t tell you the truth) because of these three reasons: a) they quit their boss – the leader is not worth following, b) the work is boring, and c) the culture has become toxic.


So, you are in a role now doing a job. What is your legacy going to be when you are promoted to another department, move to another company, retire? Have you thought about it? If so, good – tell me the answer. If not, good – give it some thought now. What are you trying to achieve in your role that will make a difference and make a mark? What will your legacy be when you move on?

I reckon it’s a topic worth spending some time getting clarity on. That clarity might bring with it enormous inspiration. Give it a go!

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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