Leadership and Legacies

I'm a believer in the idea that when we finally let go and stop trying, it's remarkable what the universe can bring. In those moments, the gift is often timely, coincidental, and even strangely familiar. The untimely death of Dave Goldberg, for me, was one of those moments. Dave was a family man, a friend to many, and the CEO of SurveyMonkey.

From all accounts I've read, Mr Goldberg was a human being—I'm using this term as defined by native Americans. I say this having never met him. The online sharing after his passing was my chance to know him, albeit just a little.

According to stories, Dave was a true sports fan. He stuck by his team no matter what. If they were down, his support grew. Loyalty mattered. He was the kind of leader we want in our organization, and the kind of partner we want in life. One characteristic of such leaders is their focus on others. Dave was known for his praise of others, even beyond what they felt was deserved. Leaders like Dave are supportive in a way that generates a warmth inside, a safe and good feeling. You can feel their kindness and compassion.

I had the opportunity to work with such leaders at Hewlett-Packard. The founders of HP, Bill and Dave, also understood the human side of management. They were particularly good listeners. They listened to their employees and customers and from the understanding gained, they created lasting relationships—a foundation for sustainable success. Goldberg advised leaders to talk less and listen more. This is great advice for all relationships.

Like Goldberg, Bill and Dave were generous and humble. They shared the company's profits and were known for their philanthropy. They understood the commitment of their people and showed their gratitude. To Bill and Dave leadership was something that required hard work. In terms of values, trust and respect were not an option within the HP culture. From all that I've read, Mr. Goldberg was that kind of a man and that kind of a leader. Goldberg sought to hire people who cared about others, and who loved to learn and have fun. His joy was contagious.

Great leaders often build things that outlast them. They are admired and remembered for their compassion and selflessness. They care about people and bring out the best in them. Such leaders live in service to others. Think of anyone you consider a great leader and you will see a person focused on others. As selfless leaders, part of their legacy is how they worked to bring those qualities out in others. "David Goldberg embodied the definition of a real leader—someone who was always looking for ways to empower others, said President Obama. He was generous and kind with everybody, and cared less about the limelight than making sure that the people he worked with and loved succeeded in whatever they did." Such leaders inspire us to become more than our own vision of self-potential. They make us better human beings. "Things will never be the same," said Sheryl, Dave's wife, but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived."

What can we learn from this man and his life? Sometimes the answers are simple. We can never become something greater than ourselves if our focus is solely on ourselves. If we live our lives like one big Selfie, our imprint will be lucky to include our own shadow. When we expand our world view to include others, we grow together. When we reach a state of selflessness and see all things as infinitely connected, this enlightened awareness shines through as loving kindness. We can see the intricate web of relationships that is us and we understand that every act of kindness is an act of peace and harmony in the world. It seems that those who create a legacy do so by losing sight of themselves through acts of kindness toward others.

To create a loyal culture, the best leadership strategy is to become loyal to your people. Focus on their needs and wants. Care for them and create a culture of support. If you could do only one thing, my recommendation would be this: eliminate fear everywhere. Fear is a cancer to creativity and innovation. Fear drives people inward, closing them off to possibility. Fear consumes all joy. It is difficult to fathom the depth of destruction that fear reins in our lives.

Far too many lives go un-lived, or are not lived to their fullest potential. Too many dreams are left in the wake of fear. So kill it, kill it with kindness. In Zen, every moment is viewed as an opportunity for practice, to practice kindness in the moment, for example. The absence of fear is the seed of happiness. The absence of fear creates a space within for which to grow. If we can do this, our legacy will be like that of David Goldberg. We will be remembered because people will feel that their lives were better because of our being in the world.


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