Fr. Damien of Molokai had served the lepers of Kalaupapa, Hawaii for over a decade, and had gained international attention when he contracted leprosy. The disease would eventually take his life, but before he died he wanted to make sure that those he was entrusted to would not be left alone. Thankfully a religious sister named Marianne Cope was there to help. She took over many of his tasks and after his death, she helped to care for many in need.
The life of Marianne Cope, has demonstrated two lessons to me.
- There is power in building on another’s legacy – Marianne was able to do so much because she wasn’t interested in building her “own thing.”
- Lead with your exit in mind – St. Damien’s impact was so much greater because he valued the work more than getting credit for it.
I’ve heard it said that a good leader builds something when they are in charge, but you can tell a great leader by what gets built after they leave.
While unhealthy leaders resent the success of their successors, healthy leaders that it is the success of those that follow that are the true measuring stick against which their work should be evaluated.
I have both built and inherited things in my life. In all cases, I’ve learned that whenever we tie who we are to our work too much it can hurt both the work and ourselves.