The Nutella Legacy

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Worth the Read

While I rarely read it cover to cover, I do make a point of perusing the obituary on the last page of The Economist. A lot of living is covered there. It’s not just the heroes whose successes are chronicled, but also the toxic residue left by people who have misused their power.

Happily, a recent obit detailed the sweet story of the Italian magnate, Michele Ferrero, who died this Valentine’s Day.

Although a deeply private and modest man known for living behind his dark sunglasses—he had secret recipes to protect, after all—his 4,000 employees were loyal to Ferrero. His family-owned business is most famous for Tic-Tacs and Nutella, a rich velvety hazelnut chocolate spread.

Nutella = Love

Nutella is a power food. My sister and I once spent a summer in France subsisting on Nutella and baguettes alone. I’ve used it to replace expensive gels for endurance training. It’s much tastier plus it has protein. The only problem is that Nutella is arguably an addictive substance. If you’ve tried it, you know what I mean.

Ferrero has left behind a lasting legacy of quality products, brilliant branding and love. Not only is Nutella an effective balm for all kinds of heartache, Ferrero funneled much of his wealth back into the Piedmont region.

What is a legacy, exactly? It can be something that was left to us, such as an inheritance. It can also be what we leave behind—repercussions from our decisions, for better or worse. So a legacy can cut both ways.

North Star

You don’t have to be a CEO to leave a legacy. In a sense we all do, whether we know it or not. In our family, our workplace, our community we leave our mark, often unwittingly.

A president of a global manufacturing company was known for asking his people: “What will your leadership legacy be?” He believed that single question could serve as the guiding star for each of his associates as they charted their own leadership development.

I can see his point. If I’m proactively thinking about what I will be remembered for, I’m more likely to be developing a capable successor. I’m also probably building sustainability as I go, not as an afterthought. My leadership choices might be more driven by how I can positively impact the world around me vs. how I can advance my own career. The Iroquois tradition takes it seven steps further by making decisions based on the impact on the seventh generation. Now that’s forward thinking.

We can take the first step ourselves by looking in the mirror and asking: what will my leadership legacy be?


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