How to Become a Legacy

The best leaders lead like Tracey Bradford, who was just a “brash, bratty teenage girl” in the Summer of 1983.

Is it possible that you don’t know that name, Tracey Bradford?

Tracey Bradford…the name behind 15 Grammy Awards and a 2014 inductee into the Rock Hall of Fame; a name known for powerful songwriting and proficiency in just about every musical instrument; a name ranked as the 3rd wealthiest drummer in the world behind Ringo Starr and Phil Collins; a name linked to punk and grunge as well as pop and hard rock music; a name known for collaboration with other famous bands and musicians; a name lauded as one of the top influences in rock and roll for the last 20 years.

Still not ringing a bell?

Don’t feel bad. Tracey Bradford isn’t in the music industry except as a consumer. But just the same, Tracey deserves credit for the accolades listed above. Tracey’s mother was best friends with the mother of a soon-to-be-famous musician back in 1983. In a tribute of Bradford on stage, that now-famous musician encourages others to be the kind of influence in the lives of others that Tracey was in his own life:

“Just remember, all it takes is for you to turn someone else on to something that will change their life.” (His quote…minus a few $&%^@#*ins)

Dave Grohl, the 6th and final drummer of Nirvana and the chief influence of the Foo Fighters, credits Bradford with igniting within him a love of all things music. Bradford’s influence made such a lasting impression on then-13 year old Dave Grohl that he frequently gives her a shout-out from the stage more than 30 years later.

You couldn’t do much better than to lead like Tracey Bradford. Although she might seem like a mere interesting side-note in rock lore, her legacy serves as a template for all leaders. From her story, I want to suggest that great leaders–

1. Infect others with their passion

Tracey hooked Dave on music by simply sharing what she loved. Passion is contagious; leaders are carriers. An engaged leader can’t hold back!

“Managers light a fire under people; leaders light a fire within people.”

2. Invite others to come along

Tracey didn’t try to persuade or convince Dave to pursue her interest. Rather, she did what all strong leaders do: she invited him to join her, to experience her world firsthand for himself. Likewise, great leaders compel others to join them, and they do it without begging, threatening, bribing, or manipulating. They do it by walking the talk.

3. Invest 100% of themselves

I never heard the name Tracey Bradford until yesterday when I picked up an old copy of Rolling Stone while my car was in the shop. And while I didn’t know Tracey, I am very familiar with Dave Grohl and his music. Grohl invested years of his life in obscure rock groups. It wasn’t until Nirvana that he became quasi-famous. Even then, he rocked his drums out of the spotlight as Nirvana front-man, Kurt Cobain, stood center stage. No matter, Grohl invested 100% of himself in his craft of making music, just as Tracey invested 100% of herself into loving music! While neither Tracey nor Dave were in the spotlight initially, their investment in creating a legacy in rock and roll is undeniable. Likewise, great leaders invest 100% of themselves, even when they do so behind the scenes, in obscurity, without recognition. They do so because they feel called to do so.

4. Ignite greatness in others

Tracey never toured the world with an award-winning rock band or stood in front of an audience of 70,000 screaming fans. But she shaped Grohl along his path. Grohl’s success–stemming from his talent, work ethic, parents, passion, and determination–started with encouragement from Bradford. Great leaders create equally great–and often even greater–followers. Leaders measure their own success by the quality of those they influence, encourage, inspire, and enlighten.


If you want to leave the longest legacy, realize your name may never be spoken aloud. You might not have your name engraved on a trophy or award. You might not have crowds screaming your name or clamoring for a mere glimpse of you.

But when you…infect others with your passion, invite others to join you, invest with your entire being even in virtual obscurity, and ignite greatness in others…you become a leader with a worthy legacy.


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