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Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli


In a workshop that a few of my colleagues and I were participating in recently, the facilitator asked us to write our impromptu response to this question:  What do I want my leadership legacy to be?

This is what I wrote:

‘I want to be the runway upon which others take flight.’ This is the legacy sentence I came up with a few years ago based on a Daniel Pink activity, and I’ve not yet come up with anything closer to a legacy truth than this. And when I am in practice of this—when I see flight in others, whatever that looks like for them, that I know I’ve supported in some way, I feel a literal vibration in my chest… almost like the purr of a cat. And that’s the selfish part of it—I crave that vibration.

I was having a conversation about kindness earlier, and I think there is a lot of that in this for me—what greater kindness is there than helping someone see what’s possible—that they are possible. It brings me so much joy to see others, and to make sure they see me seeing them, and I can’t imagine a more powerful legacy of leadership than this one—that I will have left behind untold numbers of souls who somehow felt a little warmer because of our time together; whose chests might have also felt that purr.

Also, I dearly love everyone in this room, and I am suddenly wondering how well and how much they know that. A legacy of leadership should also be a legacy of love… because in the end, what’s more important than that?


I was thinking about it again because I have been noticing, in myself and others, how the new year really can do a number on people’s self-esteem and sense of purpose. Whether you are a resolution person or not, contemplation of the year ahead can often lead to an accounting of lack; an emphasis on scarcity. What is wrong with me, physically/emotionally/spiritually/every-way-lly. What I’m not doing. What I don’t have. What I’m missing. What’s wrong.

That kind of thinking narrows and constricts. Makes us retreat into ourselves, and look at the face staring back at us in the mirror each morning with something less than love.

So how do we expand instead of constrict? How do we move toward abundance instead of scarcity?

I think that figuring out what we want our legacy to be, and then hightailing it in that direction is a pretty good place to start.

For me, it’s about igniting something in others, and it lives in love and kindness—that’s what gets the purr in my chest. But, what is it for you? What gets your chest purring? What, when you are doing it/with it/in the presence of it/in pursuit of it, makes your whole self strum with the vibration of YES?

Nigerian writer Ben Okri is quoted as saying “Our time here is magic! It's the only space you have to realize whatever it is that is beautiful, whatever is true, whatever is great, whatever is potential, whatever is rare, whatever is unique, in. It's the only space.” 

Our time here is magic.

Stop focusing on what’s not. Start realizing instead just what it is that is beautiful and true.

How can you find the purr in your chest today?

Wings & Whimsy Challenge: Awaken

Challenge: Find ten minutes. Go to a quiet and beautiful spot
with a notebook and pen. Set your timer for ten minutes, and
for that ten minutes write your response to the question
"What do you want your legacy to be?" When you're done,
read back over it and circle or highlight any powerful themes
or discoveries that came out of it. I’d love to hear anything
that comes up for you, if you’re brave enough to share. Tell
me about it in the comments below, or tweet it to me @ErikaPetrelli1


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Interested in having Erika’s blog come directly to your e-mail each Tuesday? Have comments to share?  E-mail her at erika@tlpnyc.com.
Find all her previous blog posts at www.tlpnyc.com/author/erika



“Legacy”, The Leadership Program, 2017


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.