1: the track left by a moving body (as a ship) in a fluid (as water); broadly : a track or path left.
Those are the two definitions of this noun the Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers when describing something that in life, business or coaching can be addressed in a far simpler way: the mark left behind.
What mark, you might wonder. Any mark. All marks. Everything that happens after something leaves one. But which ones are the ones we actually see and care for? How to differentiate the ones that don’t mean much from the ones that have made a difference to us? My answer to such a question might not be to elaborate but it fits: because you remember. You always will.
Think of it as the effect that lingers even after the action that originated it has passed, like when as a kid you would close your eyes and spin for a few seconds, then stop and feel that dizziness that made you giggle and laugh so hard you would do it over and over again until you felt sick. If you’re nodding right now, that’s for a simple reason.
That effect is what a good Leader leaves behind, what you remember most: a trace that he or she was there for you, for the Team and for the Business. It is (or it should be) what all aspiring Leaders aim to, and what we, the ones who follow, always look for when choosing someone to follow.
A Leader leaves a mark on you. The effect, those ripples that extend beyond his or her reach are that person’s legacy, something we will remember them for and something they will fight for. As parents who works to provide the best for their children, Leaders fight to provide the best for those who follow knowing that only some of it will remain leaving a mark behind, a trail.
I like to think it this way: when I look into the ocean of memories and experiences that keeps growing in my inner-self, sometimes I see the white lines, the wake. If the memory is too old, the lines are a bit blurry but still clear and I remember what I learnt from that person, the impact it had on me, how it changed my life. If the memory is recent, I can still see the person clearly, as if it was the ship creating that wake and I remember why that person had that impact on me. It is like watching or remembering a ship that’s just sailing away.
From a career and a business perspective, anything that became a milestone, a pivot in your path can be a mark, but if you look back there’s always someone who inspired you the most and when that person was your boss, or their boss or plainly a Leader you followed, you will be able to see that wake and reflect upon it.
A true Leader leaves a wake behind, which you will always remember.
The reason a Leader leaves a mark is not because they decided to touch you but because you allowed them to. Chances are they showed you something you considered valuable, or they impressed you or created value for you.
If you can look back and remember, if you can see those white lines leading into the horizon, it means you were lucky enough in your career to meet as many leaders as wakes you can see, which if you ask me is the best kind of memory to have: that of a sailing boat that leaves a beautiful, rich and calm wake behind.
Also published on Medium.