Is your company a workplace where your children would like to work?
Bridge Budapest has conducted Hungary’s first legacy leader research.
A legacy leader is a (business) leader who wants to impact the world beyond their personal agenda. They have a long-term vision and are committed to the future and future generations. They are aware of their responsibility and even take steps towards structural changes, leading by example and having the desire to shape attitudes. They do all this with strong personal integrity, emotional awareness, and rock-solid values. They turn their emotional, intellectual, and financial possibilities into action for the benefit of others. At the same time, they are committed to social issues and understand what they will leave behind — says the research report of the Bridge Budapest Association.
This definition, which is very complex and unusual in Hungary, explains best what we have understood over the last ten years since Bridge has been in operation, what is needed for us to live in a world where we can be proud of our performance and knowledge, where we feel better, where we can work at workplaces that are more loveable and meaningful, and a more competitive business environment determines our everyday life. The heroes of an era can tell a lot about us. They portray the times we live in, even if considered simplistic. We would like legacy leaders to be the heroes of our times. Role models whom today’s younger generation will remember with pleasure. They will be told they have done as much as possible to leave something for the next generations.
The crisis of the past few years has made clear to everyone that there are consequences for how we live, how we consume, the kind of companies we build, and the decisions we make. No matter how pessimistic our vision is, the general feeling of our immediate environment will be our responsibility, too, for a long time. It is also quite clear that the current operation is no longer sustainable. Today, we cannot see yet whether we can spread the idea that even the direction of the business can change for a decent and liveable world, and instead of being a goal, it can be a tool. However, a change of leadership approach is certainly needed for anything to change positively. To achieve this, Bridge provides the concept of legacy leadership and the active participation of legacy leaders.
The most committed legacy leader: are mindful and self-reflexive; their core value is to support others, be visionary and shapes attitudes:
- Characterized by long-term thinking.
- Feels responsible for leaving a better world for the next generations.
- Believes that everyone’s impact matters concerning our future, and that’s why we are responsible for the kind of future we make.
- They are more active and take the initiative more often than ordinary people.
- They need to contribute to structural changes; therefore, they choose “great” causes like education or equal opportunities.
- They are aware that in every moment, by every act and connection.
- They have a high level of self-knowledge and self-reflection: emotional awareness is important.
- Public appearance, setting an example, and the desire to shape attitudes are signs of conscious legacy-building.
- They are usually leaders of an international company or their own Hungarian company.
- Based on its profile, the company contributes to the greater whole; that is, it does not only “give money,” but its core activity has a positive impact on the world and causes (or if not, then it compensates by a strong CSR).
Bridge Budapest aims to create a business ecosystem based on values and performance, where self-confidence is built upon knowledge and performance. The organization has turned ten this year. It was established in 2013 and was initiated by the co-founders of Prezi, Ustream, and Logmein. Originally there were three founders, but over the years, the number of business leaders has grown to nearly 50, and today they are connected by the Bridge Leaders Community. It is a community of values whose members, by their leadership activities, can verify in everyday life that companies and meaningful workplaces can be built anywhere in the world with this business approach, regardless of the sector and the company size. The knowledge accumulated by the Association in the past ten years about leadership and business culture was distilled into a concept related to the leadership approach and is a novelty in Hungary: the concept of legacy leadership. We have not translated it into Hungarian yet because the word-for-word translation sounds odd, and we are still looking for the correct version.
No matter how ambitious and idealistic it may sound but the aim of Bridge is nothing less than to make this approach the leadership norm in the business environment. A legacy leader is built by each of his decision. Not a cathedral-like great people of old times but a leadership approach that Bridge calls legacy architecture and whose formula is the following:
Legacy = Opportunities x Good intentions x Attitude x Behaviour
During the past ten years, we have been working to establish the elements of the legacy leadership concept. We were developing and offering programs and platforms for it (Vállalható Üzleti Kultúráért, Edisonplatform, Harmadik 1%), and by now, we have managed to define it by one single concept. Today, we know that all this has led to the concept of legacy leadership. We need to understand the emotions, thoughts, dreams, and hopes of legacy leaders so that they can get near the norm after they understand the concept. Bridge Budapest has decided to conduct primary research in Hungary to see what these business operators think about their leadership tasks, the world we live in, the time perspectives, and what they will leave behind. They are leaders who already live and act according to some aspects of this complex and severe definition. They are closer to this leadership approach than the average.
While various visions of the future clash, maybe the compelling force has come to make a change.
Today, we live in a world that does not provide opportunities, is obsessed with growth, and uses up all the resources of future generations. Our world is disproportionate, unbalanced, and unfair. It has always been. We have created such inequalities that have outrun all the previous ones. But today, maybe due to the permanent crisis, there is a compelling force to change something. New balances are needed instead of the old reflexes. The degree of complexity and interconnectedness is so significant that a business leader cannot afford not to deal with the phenomena usually called social perspectives. But if this denomination creates too much distance, we can call it community, and then we immediately understand how many people’s lives we as leaders impact directly or indirectly. Today, only the various visions of the future clash; maybe nothing has been decided yet. By spreading the concept of legacy, Bridge aims to contribute to a more positive scenario.
These days various visions of the future compete. The number of market opportunities has also increased. We can buy products from people whose vision of the future we like, who are optimistic and who represent values we can sympathize with. We can work for them or with them. And this can make everyone feel better. The clash of visions is happening in terms of the bigger picture too. We openly try to ensure that the hostile world will not win; in which we can hear the fear of the vulnerable crowd, which leaves the legacy of their bad feelings and helplessness — no matter if this fear is due to an economic crisis, natural disaster and/or change of a technological paradigm — in the panic of losing their job. Still, we try to achieve a world that offers opportunities. Where we can connect. Where there is creativity, sensitivity, and beauty. A loveable, decent, and liveable world. Today, as leaders, we have this at stake, whether we can take action. Will we force it also by belief and action? It should be done by as many people as possible and as soon as possible so that the other vision can crumble away without supporters.
Business can be not only a goal but also a tool
This is why we have decided to focus on the leadership approach and encourage leaders to understand that they can achieve real change only through individual responsibility. Companies can gain, or gain back, their credibility if their leaders’ credibility and personal responsibility are not being eroded. Commitment to the benefit of others can develop this a lot. Not to mention that we can handle the numerous and yet unforeseeable challenges we face if there is a change in what we can see in our world and the wider world — that will certainly not become easier –and will form our skills according to it.
Of course, we cannot expect business leaders to give prompt answers individually to global challenges. They are not expected to stop the climate catastrophe or solve complex social issues; however, they are expected to understand them. Take action in everyday life, use their potential to fix a certain element, and make their environment feel better. They should do this by paying attention and being conscious as soon as they realize the importance of their decisions and their responsibility as business leaders.
As leaders, we must take action today to leave something for the next generations
We should not leave a leadership legacy when preparing our will. We should not examine what we leave behind us when writing that will but as soon as we become leaders. The sooner this approach becomes part of our operational/existence strategy, the more likely the result and its impact will be meaningful. It is a top priority to be at the forefront of raising awareness of this. Let’s define the fundamental concepts and the pillars of legacy building.
Commitment to the next generations could help us find the common denominator.
If we look back, can we be proud of what we have done, of what we have achieved? Do we want the next generations to be angry with us for our decisions, or have we not made them today? It might seem to be an emotional manipulation. However, it is not. It is rather a rational and necessary choice. Several leaders have been confronted by their children’s question: “What have you done so that we don’t have to be anxious?” As leaders, we always have a choice. We cannot postpone it much longer. It depends on our decisions on what will be left for them. Legacy is everything that we do today for the future.
Bridge Budapest decided to conduct research among Hungarian leaders to start raising awareness of business leaders’ legacy building — as early as possible and as soon as leadership ambitions are realized. Many people mistakenly assume that a legacy can be built only when there is material for it. It might seem right, but if we take this as a starting point, we will forget that we always have opportunities. It does not depend on quantity but on intention whether we appreciate and provide smaller things. Leaders have a kind of surplus of opportunities from the very first moment. Leaders always have more tools and resources than others, not necessarily due to financial reasons but due to their influence.
54 in-depth interviews and 214 online respondents
In terms of methodology, Bridge Budapest has conducted integrated research. It started at the beginning of 2022 and ended at the beginning of September. The subjects of the in-depth interviews are leaders and junior leaders who maintain contact with Bridge Budapest. We intentionally chose various company sizes, ownership backgrounds, and roles because Bridge believes that a leader is not distinguished, in terms of their values and approach, by whether they are managers or owners, they employ ten or a thousand people, they manufacture or provide service but by what they think of their role, opportunities, and responsibilities.
In Hungary, conscious legacy-building is not typical of leaders. It is exactly why the goal of the research was to understand and reveal that those leaders who are committed to the topic to some extent do more than necessary as business operators and also to see what they think about all this.
The basic experience of leaders is that the world is not going in the right direction
Without following and understanding the world, it is difficult to make responsible business decisions, especially under the circumstances that have been present since the pandemic and that have been made even more difficult by the war, energy crisis and inflation — just to mention a few factors from the recent past. Most leaders believe that things are not going in the right direction — neither globally nor locally — and this gives them extra motivation to support causes. This unstable world serves as a deterrence (corporate security becomes a priority) and motivation simultaneously.
Taking action as soon as possible and turning toward the microenvironment
There is a strong motivation for taking action as soon as possible because problems can be solved only in the long run, so the sooner we start to deal with them, the better — this is what the majority of the interviewed leaders think. But at the same time, they also experience the limits of making an impact: they feel helpless to global challenges, so they turn toward their microenvironment. Leaders have understood: local challenges require local answers. It is possible to make an impact via the microenvironment, too: many a little makes a mickle. In today’s challenging environment, balance and long-term thinking are the most important values most leaders highlight. And for the majority, an ideal world is slower, democratic, equal, inclusive, and involving.
Positive examples, role models, and community are important when someone is becoming a leader and building a legacy: when shaping attitudes, as an inspiration, in the know-how. The majority of the 50+ leaders have not seen an example of giving back because it has not been part of the Hungarian business culture, and many of them feel that this is still not evident. Hence, they need to set a good example.
12 important results of the legacy research
- Leadership is not a goal but a tool to make an impact. For those leaders with a value-based approach, being a leader is not only a goal after a certain period but also an opportunity to multiply their impact.
- There are four motivations: upbringing, wider perspectives, personal traumas, and the birth of children. On the way to becoming a leader, not only the teachers’ and mentors’ support is important, but also the hardships and challenges, and the motivation to overcome these can lead us toward supporting causes. The desire to build a legacy can be brought from home but the various environmental impacts and events can also direct leaders in this direction.
- The moment of commitment comes when the leader role is comfortable. Becoming a leader does not automatically mean an immediate legacy building. For the majority it is an incremental process. Not everyone sets clear goals or has the intention to build a legacy. Usually those ponder on it who are “at the right place” and do not spend all their energy on their leadership role/building their company. Most of them became committed when they started a family (25%) and almost as many business operators were driven onto this path by their managerial status (23%). And one out of five leaders became committed to social causes already during their secondary school years (22%).
- 46% of them would like to create value and something useful for society. Those leaders who are conscious and are “at the right place” will more likely become committed to a cause as they get older. Most leaders become committed to a social issue because they are driven by the creative energy of the desire to build or create something. However, only 6% think that leading a company comes with commitment and that today a responsible leader cannot avoid engagement in social issues. The reason for this strange contradiction might be that even though many people would like to make an impact, it is unclear to them how to do it or whether they should do it by being involved in social issues. This interpretation is supported by the reasoning of those who are not involved. Although there were only a few respondents who would stay away from social engagement, those who would (48%) would like to get started but just do not know how to begin. And 29% of them cannot see a good example of doing it meaningfully.
- Most of them turn toward education and skills development — while culture and art can gain much less commitment. The most important causes arise from the current situation of our world and domestic circumstances, and they are usually chosen because of personal motivation. Most (74%) turn toward education, but environmental protection and sustainability are also important directions of commitment (55%). These are followed by social inclusion and equal opportunities (43%). In comparison, culture and art can gain much less commitment (25%). Among democratic matters, the free press is “the most popular” (35%); the other options were much less frequently chosen — presumably due to political interference. Most of them (69%) are committed not only to one cause but 2 or 3.
- Growth trend: more and more people are doing more and more. In the recent period, support change can be best described by growth, especially in the case of a person’s income. Nevertheless, lower growth can also be expected shortly. In the case of one out of four leaders, a continuous growth trend can be seen, which shows that supporting social issues is becoming increasingly important among these people (however, inflation might erase good intentions). 28% indicated that support from their income had increased, and 24% replied that support given by their company had increased and would increase. Only 3% said that support from their income would decrease, and according to 4%, the support given by their company would decrease. Spending on supporting social issues on average: from own income: 3.9%; from the profit of the company: 1.8%; from the sales revenue of the company: 3.0%.
- Leaders who build legacy consciously have a long-term commitment to their causes. Leaders committed to their causes only occasionally review their support strategy. One out of two leaders makes ad hoc decisions about support. The fact that one out of three leaders reviews their strategy once a year is presumably due to the yearly budget planning of the company.
- It’s credibility that is important, not measurability. Leaders understand that most causes move forward only in the long run, so it is difficult to measure their impact. We can measure resources used for the causes (financial resources and time), but the “result”, utilization itself, can hardly be measured. The credibility of the given cause, organization, and contact person matters. If there is credibility and confidence, people presume they will use the support well.
- Maximum period: plan for 4–5 years or their children’s lifetime. The usual time horizon of the impact is 4–5 years (21%) or the lifetime of their children (20%). In comparison, much fewer people think in terms of 1–3 years (16%) or longer than a generation time (14%). Most leaders feel that their responsibility extends to the next generation. As private persons, they would like to make an impact on the next generation, that is, on their descendants. Regarding the causes, leaders have long-term plans due to the complexity of the issues, but at the same time, they get involved in ad hoc causes, too, where “success” is more tangible, and there are not only long-term impacts.
- Many people desire to take action only when they think they have achieved some results. Understanding that if we start dealing with legacy earlier, we can make a more significant impact. This connection is not evident for most of the leaders interviewed.
- Nine out of ten leaders believe we have a role and responsibility in shaping the future. Trying to take responsibility has positive impacts on mental and physical health. Leaders feel valuable and important and pay more attention to their health to care for others longer. They have an extensive network of contacts, friends, and community support, and they are more content with the quality of their relationships than ordinary people. It influences their satisfaction with their life and work. It has been proved by psychological studies that commitment to civic affairs has not only social benefits but has positive effects on the individual’s psychological and social well-being and health too. It increases self-acceptance, the feeling of potency, personal growth, and the consistency of autonomy. It is not a little consequence that independent thinking and activity facilitate change and innovation.
- Almost 61% of the absolute majority would like to make an impact beyond their own life. Most leaders would like to leave their values and approach as their legacy. To causes, they do not have any expectations in terms of practice because they know that changes can take place in the long run: it is their inner satisfaction that is important and that they can contribute to the greater whole and leave a better world behind.
It is critical to realize and understand that it takes time before any profound impact becomes visible — this is one of the reasons why it is worth starting support causes early. Long-term vision and impact begin in the present and are built in everyday life: this is why it is essential how we operate in everyday life, starting from little things to human relationships and more significant decisions. Quantity is not the top priority, for example, in the case of giving back. Still, it is essential to do it regularly and consistently and do our best depending on our possibilities. Not only when we already have a lot, but as leaders, we also have a surplus of tools from the very first moment.
Today, there are only a few leaders who have plans, with a detailed action plan, for at least 10–15 years, but Bride hopes that due to raising awareness and sensitizing work, more and more people will be brave enough to define what could make our world be a better place and what they can do to achieve it. While they work on their well-being, they provide opportunities for their environment. The structure built from their attitudes and behaviors that emerged during their legacy building is not merely the sum of good intentions and options but the product of them. Someone might leave behind what many leaders defined as their desire: that “they were good people”. But they must have contributed to the well-being of their environment: to live a life with dignity in a world where there is more justice and more opportunities. We cannot wish more for the members of the business elite to use their responsibility and options. It might involve many business decisions whose return is questionable. Moreover, it might happen that the results won’t be seen by those who live today. It is even more questionable whether they will have direct benefits from it. It is easy to accept when we plant a walnut tree: only our grandchildren can sit under its canopy. Why should business decisions be different?
The whole research report can be downloaded and is available as an audiobook in Hungarian: https://bridgebusiness.hu/legacy