I do a talk/training on the Leader’s Legacy. Basically, it discusses how leaders need to understand the shadow they cast across an organization and a culture, and helps them define and shape their legacy for the present and the future.
What I should do is just tell them to watch every Tony Gwynn interview. And then listen to, watch, and read every single tribute being given to the man who died from cancer on Monday at the age of 54.
While Tony’s legacy as a player has been brought up, it is in passing…as though his greatness on the baseball diamond was a given. What has stood out to me is the impact he had as a person.
Over and over again, sportswriters (and managers and players and fans) have shared personal stories of how Tony Gwynn made a difference in their lives. That he took the extra moment to remember that the reporters asking him the questions were human beings. And he treated them as such.
Buster Olney shared the story about a 19-year-old college student who approach Tony Gwynn for an interview for his small, one-man newspaper operation he published from his basement. Tony saw he was wearing a Vanderbilt sweatshirt and said, “Hey, you should meet another guy I know who went there – he’s our beat reporter.” And thus Tyler Kepner, now-writer for the NY Times, was introduced to Buster Olney. There are so many amazing things about this story – 1) Tony took the time to do an interview for a 19-year-old college student; 2) Tony knew that Buster, who was a new reporter for the Padres at that point, graduated from Vanderbilt; and 3) Tony took the time to connect the two in a meaningful way.
Whatever legacy you think you’re leaving, ask yourself if you would have done the same in his shoes.
The world lost a good guy when it lost Tony Gwynn.