The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 30, 2018 1:00 am

The life lived in the dash

Your actions will determine the legacy of leadership you leave

Denita Washington

“Leadership is the act of making things better for others.”

– Andrew Thorn


Most people explore legacy and leadership when they have experienced tragedy and loss. It causes you to view life from a different perspective.

On May 4, 2015, everything that I once knew and had ever known was destroyed in a house fire – leaving me with nothing but a black bag to my name. It was not until my house caught on fire and I was stripped of my possessions, people and memories that I started looking at the legacy of leadership.

I thought my legacy would be the creation of Fort Wayne Girlz Rock, but as I read Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou's conversation, I came to realize that “you have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do every day, every life you've touched. Feel everything with love because every moment you are building your legacy.”

Many try to figure out what the Obamas did differently in their leadership that drew people to them and their vision for the world. It wasn't race; it wasn't Obamacare; it wasn't Michelle's amazing arms. It was the manner in which they saw a room when they entered it.

A lot of times we speak or think about how we enter a room: our smile, body posture and where we position ourselves.

Leadership is not always about accolades or being in the limelight. Leadership should not be used for self-glorification but for others to see themselves and reflect on what they can do to press toward their own destiny of purpose.

Leadership has no face, identity, race or gender. Leadership looks like a rhythm of champion when it comes to the legacy of leadership in your community.

Pain has the ability to birth purpose, but oftentimes we fear the pain and we miss out on the purpose. Leaders must see the lost, lonely and hurting when they are in public service.

As a public servant, this is how I honor those who are less fortunate: equipping, empowering and encouraging others to have hope and to know that they have a voice at the table they otherwise would not have been invited to.

 “Sometimes you read a book at the perfect time. It's the same thing when you encounter others.”

 – unknown


My definition for legacy of leadership is looking to reward others instead of receiving awards. I believe it is imperative for younger generations to learn the power of legacy and leadership. The family of Fort Wayne holds the capacity to encourage and enhance the lives of young people, to equip them with the purpose for which they have been designed. To the parent like my mother, who allowed silence to be her loudest noise in leadership, to the man of God like my pastor, who not only spoke leadership from a biblical perspective but also lived it, leadership is not about the title that you hold or the lack thereof. The action defines true leadership.

When your eulogy is written, what will people say about you? Will they be able to stand in truth and say he or she was a person who led with love? Will your children's children reap the benefits of your leadership? Not just monetarily but the way that you touched, spoke and handled others.

There are two important dates in your life – the day you were born and the day you die. What is most important is the dash in between those dates. How you live in the dash is what your legacy of leadership will be.

Denita Washington is executive director of Fort Wayne Girlz Rock and the Democratic candidate for Adams Township trustee. 

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