Leaving a Legacy – by Brian Potter

This article was previously posted on ProfessionalServicesLeadership.com

Grandpa Walter.  He was a WWII veteran, a surgeon technician at Omaha Beach on D-Day.  He returned to his parents after the war, became a father to three children and grandfather to many more.  In his seventies, his wife passed away and he remarried my wife’s grandmother, as her husband had passed away as well.  Although he was not biologically their ancestor, Walter Hartsock was the only great-grandfather that my children have ever known.

Grandpa Walter was special.  Why?  Because he was a man of integrity.  He spoke softly, but his word was his word…you could depend on it.  When he spoke, you were confident in the truth of the words spoken.  He was absolutely loyal–to his family, his community and his country–and for that he was loved by all.

This man of integrity passed away recently at the admirable age of 101.  His funeral was a celebration of a rare, extraordinary life.  One of his grandsons spoke at the funeral; he was an all-Ohio high school football player, Ohio State University national champion and eight year NFL veteran.  To this grandson, Walter was simply “grandpa.” His conclusion in considering his grandpa’s life was that he had left the most important legacy of all…his family and the integrity and values that he had instilled in them through the example of his life.  The grandson’s wish, with tears in his eyes and a quivering lip, was that he would leave the same legacy for his children and grandchildren when his life was at its end.

What is true in life is also true in business.  As John Maxwell writes in his excellent book Developing the Leader Within You, “Image is what people think we are. Integrity is what we really are.” Furthermore, and with respect to leadership, he says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership. The secret to rising and not falling is integrity.”

Everyday as leaders we are faced with numerous decisions.  Our goal should be to lead with integrity, and to make these decisions with that same integrity.  Let us lead such that we are creating a legacy.


Brian has more than 25 years’ experience working in, and consulting with, laboratories of all sizes, from small independent laboratories to the global research and quality organizations of Fortune 500 companies. Over the past two decades he has led regional and global professional services organizations servicing these same customers.  Brian blogs on professional services and leadership at Professional Services Leadership and on science informatics at Informatics Insights.