Robert Rowland-Smith, faculty member at The School of Life, facilitated the conversation, honing in on three key areas: politics, philosophy and business.
First, members were invited to consider the point at which legacy should be identified. “Aristotle argued that your legacy should be called when you’re dead, but a symptom of the modern world is that we are quick to call people’s legacies,” Rowland-Smith suggested.
Political figures, including former UK prime ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, and former South African president Nelson Mandela, were discussed, with one delegate suggesting that worrying about your own legacy could be considered an hubristic act.
Rowland-Smith urged attendees to discuss how people might be negatively affected and overshadowed by legacy. “If you try to be like someone else, you just become a poor interpretation of yourself,” he argued.
He concluded the evening by inviting members to discuss legacy in business, questioning whether it is simply a cult of personality, spin and PR. Delegates agreed that many leaders attach too much importance to the legacy of individuals rather than to the legacy of the work they do, and concurred that the best-performing companies have leaders who do not care about themselves.