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April 2013

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“What is my legacy?” This is not just ‘a’ question; is it not THE question? It goes to the very heart of human existence. It is an emotional summing up for many and a reminder of our own mortality. The answer may be simpler than most realise.

After all is said and done, your legacy consists of what you have done to support your beliefs, and how those beliefs have affected those around you. As a Chartered Accountant (SA) and business leader you will leave your hot or cold legacy. One strange business perplexity is why so many entirely competent leaders finish their leadership journey without leaving behind much of a trace, while others – not necessarily more talented – bestow a glittering legacy. What is it about some leaders that enables them not only to make an impact during their careers, but to continue inspiring how people act and think in their organisations (sometimes, in an entire industry) even after they’ve gone?

This answer is not simple and hinges on several factors. A key variable is the way you treat others. This month we applaud the QEII qualifiers and encourage those still on this journey. Trainees are the future of the CA(SA) as well as the Saica brand and many face huge challenges on their way to qualify. As they first embrace their new profession, how will they be taught to lead?

Saica chairperson Helen Thrush recently encouraged business mentors to consider how they lead their trainees: “The way you treat the youngsters around you today will affect how they treat the trainees who follow them.” Helen tells that she had to work for “the partner from hell” when locked in her training contract. Over the following years she kept an eye out on his progress and observed how, despite stomping on people climbing the ladder, he really did not get that far. Helen believes that your approach now will guide those you leave behind when you move on – and will impact on people’s perception of you forever.

Helen’s ordeal was both negative and positive – she learnt first-hand how NOT to lead. Will you leave behind a generation who will perpetuate dysfunctional behaviour, or even drives bright young prospects out of our profession? Or will you leave behind a legacy that inspires and warms?

Gerinda Jooste

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