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What Does Legacy Mean to You? – Debra Boulanger

High-achieving professional women contemplate leadership in the context of legacy

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The L³ Alliance (Lifestyle, Legacy, and Leading by example) is the women’s group for the Wells International Foundation. Founder & CEO, Dr. Monique Y. Wells, believes it is important for high-achieving professional women to keep the idea of legacy “top of mind” and to observe how doing so influences their impact as leaders. She invites women leaders to reflect on this concept by contributing to the What Does Legacy Mean to You? article series.

Debra Boulanger shares her thoughts on legacy in today’s article.  Host of the Life After Corporate podcast and founder of The Launch Lab for women entrepreneurs, she helps smart, accomplished women leaders make the leap from corporate leader to entrepreneur.  Her mission is to help these women take charge of how they spend their time, how much they earn, and how they make an impact through their work.

L³ Alliance: What does legacy mean to you?

DB: Legacy, in the objective sense, is “leaving something of value behind” when we are no longer here on this earth.

If I could leave one thing behind, I’d like to be remembered as a lodestar for women who want to make an impact with their work. 

L³ Alliance: How does it apply to you right now as a woman who is a leader in your field?

DB: I want to – and am working toward – leaving a legacy that demonstrates how courage wins over fear.

Fear isn’t real. And it’s the #1 thing that will take you down and prevent you from living your purpose and making an impact.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not having enough. Fear of losing what you have. 

Instead, I want to show that all women are worthy of success. Worthy of love. Worthy of taking a risk to follow a passion.

I have spent a lifetime learning to deal with fear. As Steven Pressfield states in his book, The War of Art, “There is no such thing as a fearless warrior or dread-free artist.” 

Fear is a conditioned response that has little place in our modern world. Fear ruins women’s lives and robs them of love, success, wealth and courage. 

To overcome fear and make a bold move, for example, to leave a corporate job to start your own business—to do that in the face of fear that it’s a wrong move or that you might not succeed—is the definition of courage.

L³ Alliance: Do you believe there is a relationship between leadership and legacy?

DB: I do believe there is a connection between leadership and legacy. 

Leaders leave a legacy whether they are good leaders or bad leaders. Just like parents shape the belief systems of their children, leaders shape the belief systems of the people who follow them. 

As Simon Synek said, “Leaders are the ones who have the courage to go first, to put themselves at personal risk to open a path for others to follow.”

With leadership comes responsibility.

Responsibility to bring out the best in those that follow you. To be direct, honest, and also to pave the way ahead. 

There were times in my corporate career where I greatly felt that lack of leadership. In many ways, the corporate world throws a new leader into the deep water and—without guidance, support with the right tools or funding—says, “Okay – now swim to the other side.” 

That’s why I believe many women shy away from leadership roles.

If women aren’t groomed to be leaders, as men are, fewer of them will have the courage to jump into the deep end and make their way on their own.  Hopefully with more and more women in leadership positions, this will change.

L³ Alliance: How can keeping legacy “top of mind” make you a better leader?

DB: When you are leading, the world is watching.

When I made the leap from being a corporate leader to deciding to launch my own business, I was aware that all of my former women colleagues were watching. I was paving new ground for them. 

If I could do it, maybe they could too. 

That’s why I have always been generous with my coaching and training – pointing out where the big stumbling blocks are and helping women overcome the fear that frequently prevents them from achieving the success they crave. 

Being a leader is being responsible to those who follow you. I take that responsibility very seriously. It’s what keeps me in this game every day.

Photo credit: @Alyssa Peek

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