Finding Inspiration in Jack Layton’s Leadership Style: Taking Risks and Succeeding as a Team

11 September 2011 | Non classé

The many expressions of sympathy in the newspapers and on television following Jack Layton’s death demonstrate that he was a man who knew how to inspire and mobilize citizens in his electoral campaigns. The Canadian community was mobilized and moved by Layton’s leadership, his political practice and even his posthumous letter.



Was it the man’s agenda, the promises he made or his past relations that influenced and charmed the public? Or was Layton’s popularity due to his leadership qualities, which should be expected from leaders in any field: CEOs, political leaders, team leaders and even family leaders?


The leadership qualities that form a successful leader are:


  • Confidence in one’s abilities, in the future and in others
  • The inclusion of others by expressing this confidence
  • Good communication skills to inspire and mobilize


These qualities can be applied and developed by those hoping to become better leaders and to increase their influence and mobilize others.


1. Confidence in one’s abilities, in the future and in others.

Jack Layton valued the democratic principle and encouraged the respect of every individual regardless of their allegiance, their social status and whether being accused and criticized by his political opponents. These values guided the political leader’s way of being, of thinking and of communicating with others.


These beliefs were also manifested in the leader’s ability to create strong ties and maintain sincere relationships with others. Nowadays, there are many politicians that have been criticized for not telling the truth and distorting reality, which creates an overall feeling of doubt towards these heads of state. One of the reasons for Jack Layton’s popularity and influence can be because he told the truth.


Layton was honest in his relations with others and remained true to his values. He also had confidence in his abilities, in the future and in others; his philosophy was to do things together. Layton’s confidence in the future can be seen in his posthumous letter:


Hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair.


Getting inspired by Jack Layton to become a better leader.

The CEO or team leader can get inspired by Jack Layton to develop his confidence to mobilize others around a common project and to use the collective resources of every member to achieve common goals. The leader will need to identify and apply his own values and guiding principles to his decisions, the choices of his colleagues and collaborators and his way of communicating with others. He will also need to continuously develop his feeling of self-efficiency and apply it to his projects and actions. He needs to recognize the continuous need for improvement in his team or organization without demeaning his projects or his own person.


The successful leader needs to have confidence in his collaborators and share with them the information and knowledge needed with respect to: the risks, the goals, the progress and the improvements to make within the organization. By sharing information and knowledge with his colleagues, the leader demonstrates that he has confidence in their ability to find solutions to problems. If he wants to be seen as a role model, the leader needs to inspire and demonstrate self-confidence and assurance in his organization without openly talking about his feelings.


The opposite of building confidence is when the leader limits the communication with his workers and shares little or no information about problems, challenges and the current situation of the organization. An example of this is when the leader or figurehead thinks his workers lack the interest or the ability to understand the situation or problems the enterprise is facing.


The figurehead’s negative perception and lack of confidence in his workers can give them the impression of constantly being watched and can inspire them to act by fear of making mistakes or of being reprimanded. There can also be an increase in the propensity of workers to make mistakes and reduce the amount of initiatives that are taken.


The CEO who knew everything!

A few years ago, I met a CEO who was convinced that he was the best person to make decisions and that it was not necessary to tell his colleagues about the problems they were facing because he already knew the solutions and approaches to take to solve them. At the time, the company’s order book was decreasing and the current market trends determined that it would continue in the same direction.


The CEO’s closest collaborators and the company’s department leaders were not worried about the situation because they lacked information of the problem and ignored what actions to take to solve it. The CEO’s lack of confidence in his co-workers and in their ability to face reality and put forward solutions was creating an increasingly problematic situation. The CEO’s actions turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy where the best workers left the company and took with them important clients. Those who remained were less and less involved in their work and the company’s clients were dissatisfied with the increasingly poor quality of its services.


The more the collaborators and workers of an organization are trusted and given information about the situation, the problems and the risks they are facing, the more they will mobilize together and be ready to put forward the appropriate solutions. The leader’s confidence in his abilities, in the future and in others can bring better results for his organization.


2.The inclusion of others by expressing confidence.

The leader who continuously develops his confidence (in himself, in the future and in others) is more open to new perspectives, whether they differ or agree with his own. He can integrate different viewpoints in the search for solutions and knows how to utilize the abilities of his collaborators because he can listen to others without feeling threatened. The confident leader can even influence his partners to invest time and/or money in his projects because he tries to understand and value their viewpoints. The inclusion of others and their viewpoints in the achievement of a common goal or in the solving of a problem translates into the words: Together we can.


3. Developing good communication skills to inspire and mobilize.

The leader’s confidence and his desire to include different ideas and perspectives to solve common and increasingly complex challenges are manifested in the quality of his communications and of the discussions he conducts. This is done:


  • By sharing relevant information so that workers have the appropriate knowledge to make decisions and to mobilize others.
  • By soliciting and listening to others.
  • By understanding other approaches to solving problems.
  • By including diverse perspectives in decisions and solutions.
  • By putting the goal and the common good at the center of debates and of discussions.
  • And, in Jack Layton’s manner, by communicating authentically, without being pretentious or putting up fronts.



The qualities that make a successful leader: confidence, respect, inclusion of others’ opinions, communication and valuing every worker’s contribution to the achievement of the common goal and to the common good are important characteristics for those who wish to implement a shared leadership approach in any aspect of their life.


Edith Luc


© Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

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