We are living in a time of great discernment; our society is deeply divided in understanding the definition of good leadership and expectations of those who hold leadership positions. Typically, we critique leaders based on the values we hold most dear. If people are following you, you are leading, consciously or not. As a leader, the question that you should be considering is, am I directing those who follow me impactfully and where I wish for them to go. Unfortunately, there are too many of us who are not looking forward to the next chapter and the path loved ones are being led.
As an estate planning attorney, I encourage people to incentivize their values. I have seen significant amounts of money left with no instructions attached. In one such tragic story, a young woman was left more than $250,000. Within six months, she was homeless and in rehab. There was no plan or support for this young woman. Sadly, this is not an unusual story. We know that, statistically, lottery winners are more apt to file for bankruptcy than the typical person.
Yet, 55% of Americans do not have an estate plan and 70% of African Americans do not have an estate plan. While there are many reasons why people justify not having a plan, the truth is, it is often just not a priority. As leaders of a family, a community or a business, we have a responsibility to set a path that will position our followers in a better space because we came before them. We should not leave them in an even worse position because of ill or no planning.
I am supportive of people embracing their values and building opportunities to promote advancement of the community, utilizing those values. If secondary education is important to you, then encourage your loved ones or your community to go to college by reducing the barriers to entry, such as creating scholarships. If homeownership is a value to you, then help mitigate the barriers by providing support for a down payment.
We encourage raising contributing members of society with a helping hand, but not diminishing the responsibility to building on their own. Economic support to go to college still requires admission based on the productivity of the applicant. I also recommend setting an expectation of standards in moving forward for the student. The gift of support towards down payment of a house does not remove the responsibility of the purchaser to qualify to get a mortgage. The responsibility of the leader is to prepare those who follow to rise up and pass the baton to enable the follower to become the next leader.
Leadership requires a vision and a purpose. We live our best lives when we walk in vision and purpose. We encourage each person to leave a legacy that supports the next generation; to fuel a values-based vision and purpose, ignited by the path laid before them. The greatest gift we can give is the support for others to live their purpose to be a values-based contributor.