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What Does Legacy Mean to You? – Dr. Yvonne Thompson

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.

Activist, gamechanger in the diversity arena, and supporter of women entrepreneurs, Dr. Yvonne Thompson is today’s invited guest for our Thrive Global Legacy series.  Having started and run her own women-in-business network for more than 22 years, Dr. Thompson’s skills as a business and personal mentor qualify her as an expert in the business and D&I arena.  Queen Elizabeth II recognized her with a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her focus on women entrepreneurs, women in the corporate workplace (especially women and minorities on boards [or the lack thereof]), and the Black Women’s Paygap.

L³ Alliance: What does the word “legacy” mean to you?

YT-CBE: For me, legacy means being cognisant of the life you live as soon as you are aware of the place you have in the world – what you were sent here for and the effect you have on other people’s lives before you leave this world for the next.

So, your legacy starts before you die.

You begin building a legacy by living a good life, so you can initiate lasting, positive change in the world — for your community, your family, and your friends. This could be through finance, influence, mindset, or support in some other way.

It could simply be through love.

How you pass this baton down and how generations to come show up for their place in the world is proof of your legacy.

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

YT-CBE:  As far back as I can remember, being a catalyst for positive change has been my goal, my aim, and my destiny in life. I have always been working towards this, even without realising it.

Having been influenced by a mother who seemed to have a never-ending capacity to care for others, when many others did not, I seem to have inherited a legacy of wanting to help others.  Hence, I originally wanted to be a doctor or nurse. 

Whilst I did not make it into the medical field, my efforts and achievements have been recognised through many awards, most notably:

  • One CBE (Commander of The British Empire) – an honour from Queen Elizabeth II
  • Two honorary doctorates, and
  • Four fellowships from some of the UK’s top universities and organisations

in recognition of the work I do in mentoring, coaching, supporting women in business globally, (both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs).

My work has included:

  • Starting the UK’s first legal black owned radio station – growing and selling to the UKs largest independent media groups in the UK
  • Starting the UK’s first black owned PR company, as noted by PR Week the UKs (PR bible)
  • Being part of the start up of the UK’s first black owned monthly glossy magazine
  • Starting the first European black women-in-business network, which is now WINTrade Global Network (www.wintradeglobal.com), again supporting women entrepreneurs across the globe.

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

YT-CBE:  Absolutely there is a bound relationship between inclusive leadership and legacy.

You cannot have leadership without followship, and you cannot follow without a leader.

This can be for good (Martin Luther King) or evil (Hitler).

How the legacy is perceived depends on how leaders lead, and how they communicate and position the outcome of their goals, aims and objectives.

How the legacy is perceived depends on the ability of the leader to communicate it with clarity.

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

Keeping the legacy “top of mind” means it can be focused on.

I always say, “Find your focus and focus on your focus and it will be achieved.”

Through clear, focused communication, you will achieve your aim, your leadership ethos, your position, and eventually, your legacy.

Photo by Lewis Patrick Photography

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