The L³ Alliance (Lifestyle, Legacy, and Leading by example) is the women’s group for the Wells International Foundation. Founder & CEO, Dr. Monique Y. Wells, believes it is important for high-achieving professional women to keep the idea of legacy “top of mind” and to observe how doing so influences their impact as leaders. She invites women leaders to reflect on this concept by contributing to the What Does Legacy Mean to You? article series.

Today’s article features Sophie Gibson, a pioneer and a respected expert in the world of digital communications. Through VIVO360, Inc. (VIVO), her digital creative agency, she works to deliver exceptional digital, marketing, and technology solutions to some of the world’s most influential brands, including Voya Financial, Delta Air Lines, Turner, the City of Atlanta, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. VIVO has offices in D.C. and Atlanta.

L³ Alliance: What does the word “legacy” mean to you?

SG: Legacy means honoring all those who have paved a path for me and the generations after me. It is about the impact and the lives you’ve touched and the impact and opportunities those before you have created for you.

When I think of those that have left me a legacy, I think of all my foreparents who intentionally did things like educate their children, buy property, and protest to have the right to vote, so that I and all the generations coming after them have the opportunities to have a better life.

The best legacy I can give and leave on this earth is to pass on the blessings of those who have come before me, are related to me, and are sharing this human experience with me on this planet. I have a duty to relate their stories to the next generation, so that this younger generation truly understands whose shoulders they stand on and recognizes the light that is providing guidance on the road they have chosen to travel.

My legacy is about fulfilling my purpose each and every day and inspiring my fellow brothers and sisters to connect with their higher selves, find who they truly are, and get inspired to live a purpose-driven life that positively impacts others.

L³ Alliance: How does it apply to you right now as a woman who is a leader in your field?

SG: I show up in the world as a multidimensional leader.

I am a mother first – this is the first opportunity I received to be a leader who intentionally impacts others’ lives.

I show up as Founder and CEO of VIVO360, Inc. (VIVO), a digital and creative agency I created 19+ years ago.

I show up as the VP for my homeowners’ association, a board member for a nonprofit (Pet Partners), and Founder of Reach Your Higher Self and of Show You Care.

I show up as a leader in no matter what I do.

As a woman, a woman of color, and a woman who has experienced hardships beginning as a little girl I can truly say all these things have allowed me to excel as a leader in my field.

I grew up in a household whose father was a feminist. He has five daughters – and none of us changed our names when we got married. I have applied the legacies my father left in almost everything I do. It’s the essence of who I am. It’s more than what he said it’s the examples he and my mother demonstrated every day.

My father told me stories of his mother, my grandmother, Ritinella:

Pregnant with my father at the age of fourteen, for the deacon of the Church, my grandfather …

Giving birth to my father at fifteen and being sent away for two years …

Coming back and opening her first store …

All this happened in Jamaica in 1928, when she was not yet 19 years old.

This little black girl was just five feet tall. She went on to own five stores in various parishes in Jamaica, to be the main bread winner of the family, and to educate her five children – including sending my uncle to study civil engineering at Howard University.

There is also the story of Henrietta Antoinin, my mentor and friend, who is like a mother to me. She was arrested 13 times during the Civil Rights Movement, here in Atlanta, Georgia, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King! I go to her home and I am listening to Ambassador Young, who is in her living room, and I’m hearing firsthand his story and the stories and legacies of others.

I also grew up hearing the story of my great, great, great, great grandmother who came to the U.S. as a slave at 7 years old. Before she died, she left a cup and saucer to her daughter that has since been passed down from generation to generation!

How can I not lead with pride, knowing these stories, these legacies and understanding how I am where I am today!

L³ Alliance: Do you believe there is a relationship between leadership and legacy?

SG: Yes, most definitely.

L³ Alliance: Please describe what the relationship is. 

SG: Making bold decisions in marketing and the digital world is all about doing whatever it takes, knowing there are consequences to every action – good or bad. Knowing and understanding your legacy allows you to be a leader in whatever you do!

I am here because those before me created the opportunities that I now travel on. Legacy is about how you impact lives. My ancestors have truly impacted my life and the lives of my children. They were leaders in their own right and have passed on the legacy of leadership through the lives they led!

L³ Alliance: Can keeping legacy “top of mind” help you be a better leader? If so, how?

SG: Yes, keeping legacy “top of mind” can help you be a better leader.  

One of the lessons I have taught my children is “Whatever my grandfather did or didn’t do has everything to do with where I am today, so please be intentional in ALL you do because whatever you do or do not do is going to affect and impact the lives of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all the generations to come.”

I understood this from an early age – I believe I saw the lives of my mother’s family (specifically her father) and the lives of my father’s family (specifically my grandmother) and realized how one had more privilege than the other. My grandfather is of Lebanese decent and was a womanizer – my mother’s mother died when my mother was six months old and my grandfather’s wife was not necessarily the best stepmother to my mother. In her later years, that changed.

However, the legacy had already been created – I saw and understood the power of choices and intention at an early age! The choices my father’s mother made created better outcomes for her children and thus her grandchildren, while the choices my mother’s father made literally passed on a legacy of pain.

You must be intentional, and legacy has to remain top of mind – because someone is always watching and learning from your example!