The CEO Agenda: Legacy

What do I want to leave behind? is one of the greatest questions a CEO can ask.


The CEO Agenda: Legacy

"What do I want to leave behind?" is one of the greatest questions a CEO can ask. James Allen, coleader of Bain's Global Strategy practice, discusses how the question of legacy can help CEOs step back from the urgent to think about the important. 

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Read the transcript below.

JAMES ALLEN: As we think about how CEOs create their own agenda for the company, one of the really important issues is how they consider their own legacy. And that's not a selfish thing; it's not about [putting your own] ego into it. It actually forces the CEO to ask very different questions. One of the issues for CEOs is they're overwhelmed constantly by the urgent, and one of the questions always is, how do I strip through the urgent to get to the important? By considering legacy, it forces you to say things like, what leadership am I leaving behind after I go? Who have I prepared to be the successors and the successors to the successors? It forces you to ask, what customer franchise am I leaving? Have I improved how customers think about us, how customers promote us?

It forces a CEO to say, do I believe I've left the organization more sustainable, more responsible? So legacy questions are a really useful way to step back and say, what will I be most proud of in terms of my management and leadership of the company? What have I left behind? And we think so often as we walk through what a CEO agenda is, they're so overwhelmed about what's necessary now for the company, for the management team, and to step back and say, but what do I want to leave behind, is probably one of the greatest questions a CEO could ask.


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