Legend or footnote?

Here’s a guide to building your own work legacy.

How will you be remembered after you walk out the practice door for the last time? Will you be a legend or a forgotten footnote? Years from now will your practice personnel remember you as dynamic and irreplaceable or with a shoulder shrug and indifference?

To leave a positive and meaningful legacy that contributes to future practice success, you will want to develop a specific set of skills and abilities.


Here are five attributes commonly shared by leaders who are legend-bound:

Compassion. If you are a thoughtful, caring and transparent leader every day, that is how you will be remembered. Work is about people. Outside of family and close friends, your coworkers likely are the most important people in your life. You certainly will spend a great deal of time with them over a career. Legacy consideration: While you will make unpopular decisions as a leader, it is possible to consider the impact your decisions have on individuals. If you develop and manage relationships with coworkers that are consistent, honest and trust-based, you will be remembered positively long after you are gone.

Strategic thinking. To enhance your status in the practice, hone your ability to identify, collect, analyze and interpret important data that allow you to contribute meaningfully to short- and long-term planning. A tactical and deliberate approach is a talent that results in better overall decision-making. Regular marketplace analysis is a good example of data-driven strategic thinking (i.e., consistent demographic analysis might reveal an aging population segment that prompts you to consider the purchase of a new piece of equipment; the closing of a competing practice might lead to expansion analysis). Having a clear understanding of the dynamics of your market — and how you fit into that market — will best position your practice for sustained success. Legacy consideration: While specific day-to-day details and tactics will change out of necessity, your ability to plan strategically and focus on enduring, long-term solutions will best position you to have a lasting impact on the practice and its people.

Understanding change. Change is inevitable, and today’s medical arena is clearly in a state of uncertainty. To a legend this spells opportunity. Understanding that change is good — and using it to your advantage to better the practice — will make you a valued leader. But think twice about accepting change that allows others to take the wheel and drive — and potentially sink — the ship. While a status-quo approach may be safe in the moment, the ability to embrace change, accept a certain level of risk and assume a leadership role will elevate a practice — and its leaders — to a place atop the local market. A willingness to consistently spend (valuable) time and energy to stay current on industry innovation (equipment and techniques) and regulatory issues will reward providers who proactively anticipate that change is always right around the corner. Conversely, those who wait for change will find themselves following the leaders. Legacy consideration: Visionary leaders regularly use their experience, insight and knowledge to analyze and anticipate potential change and plan for success in that envisioned environment. They take calculated risks. The key word is calculated. Legends take risks that have a high probability of success, but that also include exit strategies to minimize damage from a risk gone wrong.

Knowledge sharing. To be remembered and revered, seek out every opportunity to mentor. Pass along everything you know and then some. Share your experience. Identify bright and willing candidates and take them under your wing. Let them know you are available to spend time grooming them to be future practice leaders. Legacy tip: You likely had mentors, supporters and coaches along the way and understand what impact they had on your career. Now it is your turn to share knowledge and shape the future. By doing so, you will ensure that the past (you) will not be easily forgotten.

Practice building, at all levels. Building better operational systems and processes that result in outstanding patient care is the stuff of legends. The same can be said for taking the time to inspire and develop a practice culture that results in a happy, dedicated and hardworking staff. Legacy tip: As a leader you exert a great deal of influence and control over how the practice spends its regular and surplus resources (i.e., time, money and human resources). Invest in your legacy by building a practice focused on routinely exceeding patient expectations while meeting the needs and wants of a willing staff.


As your career winds down and your legacy takes its ultimate shape, make sure you work until the final buzzer. Don’t leave anything hanging. Complete all tasks that require your effort and expertise. Tie up all loose ends. Don’t dwell on any regrets or disappointments you may have from your tenure — they’ll pass.

Instead, focus on your successes and how you are leaving the practice in a better place than when you were hired. …

That’s what your coworkers will remember. OM