Leadership Legacy

At the invitation of Leading Influence Ministries, our CEO Shelley Morris delivered the keynote address at the 2013 MLA Prayer Breakfast. We share it here with the hope that you will be as blessed and inspired in its reading as were the people in the room:

When you stand up to speak in front of a large group of people, you want to say something brilliant or amusing, where the crowd settles in right away thinking ‘oh yeah, this is going to be good!’  Maybe you throw out a pithy witticism or a profound quote.

But instead, I have dipped into the well of wisdom to draw from a modern poet.  Without wanting to embarrass our esteemed host Tim Schindel, nor reflect poorly on The Cridge Centre for the Family, or more important, have you start fleeing the room – I’m going to dare to quote from that purveyor of fine music, that master of melody, the weaver of words, the KING of elevator music – Barry Manilow.

Even across the room I’m pretty sure I just saw some of my board and staff members roll their eyes and wince, but stick with me and listen to these words:

Just one voice
Singing in the darkness
All it takes is one voice
Singing so they hear what’s on your mind
and when you look around you’ll find
there’s more than One voice
Singing in the darkness
joining with YOUR one voice
each and every note another octave
Hands are joined and fears unlocked
if only one voice would start on its own
We need just one voice facing the unknown
and that one voice would never be alone
it takes that one voice, just one voice.

(N. B: you may enjoy this version of One Voice by Straight No Chaser, featuring Barry Manilow)

It doesn’t look as though I chased too many people from the room so let me try to shed some light on why I shared that with you. I want to talk to you today about legacy.  Not just leaving a legacy, but LIVING a leadership legacy each and every day.

Take a little mental trip with me and imagine that it is the early 1850’s.  A young man and his new bride leave the bucolic life of a country Vicar in England and boards a sailing ship, chartered by the Hudsons Bay Company.

For six long months he and his fellow passengers suffer the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, and at times even fresh water.  They battle heavy seas and pelting rains.  They round the ship-killer called Cape Horn enduring freezing cold and then unrelenting heat.  Imagine every passenger suffering some type of sickness on the journey.  It’s a true story and it was a  journey of hardship and deprivation that was undertaken by Bishop Edward Cridge and his bride Mary before they finally arrived at their new home, a stockade, mud a foot deep in the street, a few scattered buildings … home… Fort Victoria.

Here was a couple who made a choice to put service to others above comfort of self.  Here was a couple who, with no thought of how they would be remembered, created legacy, lived legacy and left a legacy.  They started the BC Protestant Orphans’ Home which of course today is where I work and is now known as The Cridge Centre for the Family, the oldest continuously serving charitable organization in Western Canada.

Their ethic of service and ministry over the decades propelled them to leadership. They galvanized the community in developing prison reform, combating racism, improving health care, education, the rights of the poor; they were involved in politics, culture and the arts – tThe very same ongoing work that many leaders, churches, charities, businesses and people in this room continue to strive for today.

I don’t think they ever gave a moment’s thought to what their legacy would look like 140 years later, I don’t think they set out to be leaders in society – yet what leaders they were and what a legacy their lives have left.  A legacy wasn’t the goal of their lives; it was the side-effect, the by-product.

Today, because of Edward and Mary, The Cridge Centre for the Family serves seniors; children; survivors of brain injury; individuals and families in need of safe, affordable housing; families with a disabled child; young parents; new Canadians; women and children escaping domestic violence; and those in need of counsel and support. Our clients are your constituents, your parishioners, your customers, your neighbours, your family members, your friends, your community.

One man, one woman, each with one voice, living and leaving a profound leadership legacy by virtue of excellence, service, humility and dedication

At The Cridge, we are a part of Edward and Mary Cridge’s legacy, but we are also continuing to LIVE that legacy every single day in service to others.  Each staff member, board member, volunteer, one voice at a time, is adding to that chorus that Edward and Mary started.  We strive to be leaders in our community, we honour where we have come from, and we choose to lead in excellence into the future. The mission and ministry of The Cridge Centre for the Family is changing lives as much today as Edward and Mary did in their day. And just as an aside, if you aren’t familiar with the work we do, then talk to me or anyone of our board or management team members who are sitting at those tables over there (wave your hands guys) and we would love to spend some time with you and show you around and talk to you about our work, our passion and our vision.

Honoured members of the Legislature, no matter what position you do – or do not – hold in government in the months or in the years ahead, each individual one of you have already shown yourselves to be people who, like Edward and Mary Cridge, choose to sacrifice what was easy and instead push through, at times stormy waters, in order to raise YOUR one voice. I think that anyone who has ever observed Question Period in the House knows that it can be as turbulent as rounding Cape Horn at times!

You are leaders today and you will be leaders tomorrow.  Now this isn’t church, but I am here to testify that whether alone, or sometimes joined in chorus, you HAVE been living your leadership legacy and we honour you for that, and although this isn’t church, when it comes to appreciating these servants and saying thank you, can you all give me an Amen on that! (Amen!)

But I’m also going to challenge you, encourage you and celebrate you going forward to continue that legacy of leadership every day that you wake up and find yourself blessed with being vertical and with a new constellation of opportunities in front of you.

No matter what political stripe you wear, there is no doubt that every MLA in this room, and I would also say every individual in this room, is fuelled by a desire to create success, change, hope, opportunity and community.  You have taken the journey of hardship in order to make a difference and you are making a difference.

A year from now, we’ll see some of the same faces in this room, some new faces, some missing faces – such is the nature of politics and elections – but politics and elections DO NOT DEFINE your legacy, they do not define you as a leader, they do not define the range or limits of your success, and they most certainly do not define you as a person.

Legacies don’t happen overnight – they are crafted over years of hard work and dedication, over a lifetime of hard work and dedication. They are not your reputation, and  they especially are not your job title: MLA, CEO, Pastor, Businessperson, Manager, Dishwasher or Ditchdigger … the beginning or end of working under any job title is no barrier to creating your own legacy or to leading with vision.   Your job may provide a wonderful window of opportunity to contribute to your legacy, but Your legacy is created from within you; Your legacy is carried within you. And, if I may, Your legacy is gifted by God and entrusted to you.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Mattie Stepanek, an American poet who died in 2004 at the age of 13.  His words moved the world,  impacted lives and inspired millions and it was in fact, President Jimmy Carter who, citing Mattie as his hero, gave his eulogy, saying  “we have known kings and queens, and we’ve known presidents and prime ministers, but the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known in my life is Mattie Stepanek.”

I’d like to read you two short poems that Mattie wrote in 1996, already with the heart and mind of a wise philosopher and peacemaker packed into the sick and decaying body of a six year old.

(N.B. Shelley read Mattie’s poems ‘Heartsong’ and ‘The Daily Gift’ at this point. We do not have permission to publish those poems, but encourage you to purchase Mattie’s book via the Mattie J. T. Stepanek Foundation).

When I mentioned that legacies are crafted over a lifetime, it’s clear that not one of us know the day or the hour appointed for the end of our journey. Legacy is not a matter that you can put off and ‘get to’ later.  The time is now, today is the day, and when you leave this room is the moment.

One Voice, One Heartsong … it doesn’t matter what you know, if you don’t know what really matters and you don’t live it and you don’t leave it behind. Some might have thought of Edward and Mary’s journey to the new world as a ‘life sentence’ of hardship – I believe they would have said they had a life sentence of service and reward, of opportunity and blessing.

Sometimes we see an epitaph as a reflection of someone’s life sentence,  an indicator of how they lived their lives and it doesn’t always get written the way we might like to see ourselves:

On a lawyer’s grave in England, there was a man by the name of Sir John Strange, his tombstone reads “here lies an honest lawyer, and that is Strange.” Or from the wild west in Silver City, Nevada: “Here lies a man named Zeke. Second fastest draw in Cripple Creek.”

We see humour in those, but not likely the life goal that Zeke would have chosen to be remembered for. Clare Boothe Luce challenged us to create a sentence, a statement, summarizing the goal and purpose of our lives – a life sentence if you will.

Let me pick on MLA Margaret MacDiarmid who so graciously introduced herself to me at the table this morning. I don’t think we’d ever hear Ms. MacDiarmid say, “My life goal is defined as being an MLA”,  I think we’d hear you say, “I want to use my time, talents, energy and vision to make British Columbia the best it can be, for all people, in this generation and for generations to come.”

When each of you create and own your personal life sentence, you not only begin to create your legacy, you begin to LIVE your legacy and you carry it through job titles, through work, through retirement, through play, through volunteering, through charity work, through business, government or ministry.  You carry it with you through spending your dollars, the people you choose to spend time with and through putting boots on the ground to get done what needs to be done.

When you see new challenges or renewed challenges and opportunities ahead of you, you must carry your core strengths and your life sentence with you and unleash them in whatever role you fill.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, whether you are a preacher or premier, dishwasher or ditchdigger, I believe each of you have a divine destiny and purpose and the legacy you leave is up to you to discover, embrace and fulfill – not for the purposes of power and self-agrandisement, but for the equipping and fulfilling of all that can be created for good from the Edward and Mary Cridge type of servant-leadership.

I was reading recently about how oftentimes, people who aren’t fulfilling their destiny will try to discourage you from fulfilling yours! They may not do it intentionally, but they’ll tell you what you can’t do and how things won’t work out.  They are quick to remind you of impossibilities … they may try to talk you out of your dream, out of your passion.

But I believe that God put that destiny, that passion, that living legacy, that promise, inside of you, not inside of them. You have to remember that other people do not determine your destiny or your legacy, God does. As a person of faith, I believe that He holds your destiny and my destiny in the palm of His hand, and if we are true to living, as the author said, “your best life now” then God will not only bring it to pass, but it will be beyond what we might even ask or think. Don’t let people talk you out of your passion, or your dreams, don’t let them walk all over your living legacy with the muddy boots of discouragement.

There is no question, you will leave a legacy of some sort, whether it be the kind of legacy that ends up on a tombstone telling people that you were second fastest on the draw or whether you have prime ministers extol your virtues or whether you serve humbly and quietly without fanfare and in the end fulfill every desire that God has placed in you, you will leave a legacy.    So when you leave here – today, a year from now, ten years from now – go get it done!

Lead where you stand, serve whom you meet, reach out to those in need, think, feel, give, receive, be courageous, have convictions, define your life sentence, be blessed and get up every morning and determine to live your legacy and raise your one voice and share the passions of your heart, your heartsong.

We don’t necessarily all share the same faith in this room, and we come to living our lives and legacy from different directions – and I respect that.  So let me just gently say that from my belief, I believe in each one of you, I believe that God has equipped each of you.  A devotion I read recently finished up by saying “It’s time to get in agreement with God. He says you are well able. He says you are equipped. He says you are qualified. He says you are anointed, called and appointed to fulfill every dream and desire he placed within you!”

And in that reality, your legacy will change the world.

Thank you for letting me share this time with you today.

1 reply
  1. Cathy Hallam
    Cathy Hallam says:

    Amen, and thank you, Shelley Morris. I am so proud to be a part of the Cridge Centre for the Family.

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