Successful leaders know how to keep leading. We can learn from them.

Inc. has written about Marshall Goldsmith many times. He writes here. With good reason: he's written #1 bestselling books, been named #1 leadership thinker, coached clients named #1 CEO, learned from other #1 leaders, and so on.

That's a lot of #1's.

Most people wouldn't see it as something you need to solve, but he wrote the book on it, literally: What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become More Successful.

Marshall has been a mentor and friend for a decade. The second-to-last time I saw him, he saw challenge in all these number ones.

The seed of the idea

They meant he seemed to have nowhere to go but down. But we were both attending a workshop on life planning (by Ayse Birsel, based on her book, Design the Life You Love).

Marshall has led his share of workshops. Many experienced workshop leaders don't participate in others' workshops. They act like they're above it.

But you could see Marshall applying the principles and something was taking root. I found out what the next time I saw him.

Marshall's idea

The last time I saw Marshall, we were doing a video interview together. After recording, he shared how he kept thinking about the design for his life that took root at Birsel's workshop.

He told me he kept thinking about his heroes, his legacy, and how to leave one. He shared that he was thinking about sharing everything he knew for free.

I could share the middle steps, but he's posted the results, his 15 Coaches Legacy Project.

In short, he decided to offer to teach everything he knows to fifteen people, whom he will select from an application. There's one condition: if chosen, then when it's time for you to leave your legacy, you pass on everything you know to fifteen more people.

Here's a brief video on it:

I've applied. You can too. In fact, I'm creating competition for my application by writing this article.

Why am I sharing it? Partly because Marshall has become a friend and friendship means helping them by putting their interests first. That's a big part of leadership I learned from Marshall.

The big picture

But I see something bigger in this than Marshall, even with all his #1's. When he shared the early version of the project after doing that video, he said Buddha was his main role model--someone who taught everything he knew for free.

I kept thinking that people after retiring often shared everything they knew for free. Since then I couldn't think of any modern person who did so. Many rich people donate money, but for many successful people, what they know is worth more than the money and it gets lost.

I love ideas that when you hear them you think, "How can that not exist already?" Almost always it means it's worth doing. This is one of them.

Marshall's legacy

Beyond what he teaches to his fifteen participants, I expect that Marshall will start a trend. I believe that other great leaders, thinkers, doers, and people with legacies worth making will also start sharing everything they know for free.

Imagine a world where people expect to leave behind their knowledge, skills, experience, and beliefs for free. Everyone benefits. It's funny to think how few people have done it in history. I wonder if he might start a cultural change.

Starting a trend is nearly the definition of leading. And when other leaders follow, you're a leader among leaders.