A few months ago I sat with a group of CEOs who were reflecting on a statement John Maxwell makes in one of his books “ A truly valuable vision must have God in it. Only He knows your full capabilities. Have you looked beyond yourself, even beyond your own lifetime as you’ve sought your vision? If not you may be missing your true potential and life’s best for you.”1
A few of these men are in the middle of the process of handing over the leadership of their companies to the next generation. Others will be starting that process in the next five to ten years. One of the topics we discussed was “looking beyond your lifetime.” The men in this room have all been successful by the standards of the world. They started their companies from nothing and all have experienced struggles in pioneering companies. All of them shared different emotions they are experiencing as they move through the process of transferring day to day leadership.
A common theme of concern was handing over leadership of a successful company to the next generation that may not have experienced the hardships and lack of money that these men sitting together had. There were a few common concerns among the men in the room.
“Will my children have the same value for people I have, when they haven’t experienced financial hardship themselves?”
“Will they be good stewards of relationships with the staff?”
“Will my children seek to understand others and act with compassion?”
As we enjoyed our coffee one man brought up a question: “Will the Christian values and generosity in giving to Christian causes that the company was founded on continue in future generations? Some of these men shared how they have laid a strong foundation in giving generously. They highlighted how they have focused in the last few years on teaching about the foundational values of the company. But the concern is still there.
Then the big question that all of these men struggled with: “What will be the legacy that I leave behind for future generations?”
All of the men agreed it was not money or the success of the business that mattered to them. It was the foundation of having God at the center of their business. Their question is pretty simple – “Have I modeled Christ to those around me?”
Then a few of them shared how they wished they could do some things over again.
The room became pretty quiet for a few minutes as they all focused on the mug of coffee in their hands.
Then one shared, “I wished I had managed my time better. Not having put the business first. Looking back all of the long hours at work aren’t so important now.”
Many heads began nodding in sad agreement.
During this gathering, I experienced what John was talking about in his book “Teachability—to keep leading, keep learning”. I put the art of listening into practice that day and I learned a lot about leadership. These men, who are all successful businessmen by the world’s standard, shared with each other and me what was on their hearts. They shared what was truly important in regard to being a leader.
If I could summarize their realizations about leadership:
1Page 149 The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell copyright 1999 published by Thomas Nelson Inc