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Jack’s Legacy – Personal Leadership Attributes Lessons from Jack Layton

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Canada lost a charismatic leader in Jack Layton when he died of cancer at the age of 61.

jack laytonAs I listened to the radio and read the personal tributes that come in online – I can piece together his personal leadership legacy. This is not about what he accomplished politically, but who he was as a leader. No matter what your political beliefs, we can learn something from Jack’s personal leadership attributes. Some of these stories and lessons come from his colleagues in government, but many come from the many ordinary Canadians he touched.

Energy, Passion and Values

Jack didn’t just believe in the NDP policies, his personal and party values were aligned. His home includes solar panels,he didn’t own a car and he could often be seen biking in Toronto with his partner Olivia Chow. In his parting letter to Canadians he shares that “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.” He was and wants people to continue to be loving, hopeful and optimistic.

Truly Connecting with People

Many stories spoke about Jack’s genuine connection with others. A young volunteer at parliament hill traded stories about backpacking through Canada with Layton as she met with him for 10 minutes after work. He is as comfortable talking to labour leaders as he is to students and treats all with respect. His gift was to truly listen and take everyone seriously. In an election campaign, in a hotel lobby at midnight, a man on a phone in show today recalls how Jack made time to speak with him for a good 10 minutes. He didn’t have to do this, but he made the time to connect with just one more Canadian before continuing with his busy election campaign schedule.

Believing in others

One of Jack’s messages to young people in his last letter is that he believes in them. Others working closer with him said the same. Brian Mason (Alberta NDP leader) said that Layton was always there for him and that Layton was his leadership inspiration. His message to those who are in the midst of their fight against cancer is to keep believing and to not lose hope.

Jack Layton used this quote by Tommy Douglas at the end of his emails:

Courage my friends, ‘tis never too late to build a better world




Ellen Melis is a Certified Executive Coach and Facilitator who delivers her services in English and French. She brings her energy and enthusiasm to her coaching and facilitation. Results-driven, she will ask her clients to step out of their comfort zone to get to where they want to be. She will be a trusted partner along the way, holding clients accountable to their own action planning and growth. Health and Leadership are life-long passions and her personal mission is to empower others to live the life they want to their optimal potential.

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Guest Sunday, 24 September 2017

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