Jack Layton: great lessons from a life well-lived

Posted August 24, 2011 in Latest News & Insights

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  So said Martin Luther King Jr, who’s memorial was unveiled in Washington this week… the same week Canada lost a true leader: Jack Layton.  As many have commented, whether you agreed with Jack Layton’s politics or not, most respected his leadership.  Fuelled by a passion for social justice, Jack Layton was an unwavering optimist who believed that nobody should be left behind.  I believe there are many life lessons we can all learn from Jack Layton.

  1. Experience is always transferable (even if people tell you it’s not)… many people thought that Layton’s twenty-year stint as a city councillor would be a liability at the federal level.  They were wrong.  The skills he developed managing multiple agenda’s and interest groups helped him broker deals with the ego’s on the Hill.  When you’re looking to make a shift, don’t listen to people who tell you don’t have the skills.  They’re just part of the group that don’t have the guts to make things happen.
  2. Passion inspires followers… nicknamed “smiling Jack” it was obvious that Layton loved politics and – I believe – that passion and vision was what attracted people to the NDP party and put them in the place no-one (except Layton himself) expected… as official leaders of the opposition.  Leaders who passionately believe in what they do attract people who want to help them do it.
  3. Life isn’t fair, so love what you do… for Jack Layton to work so hard, achieve so much and then be robbed of seeing it go further because of cancer simply sucks.  But, there is no doubt that Jack Layton loved the ride he had while he was here.  It’s a great lesson for everyone out there who’s grinding through a job they detest.  That dream you have to “enjoy life” after you retire may not go according to plan.  Better to live it to the fullest now.
  4. The opportunity for leaders to make a positive impact is endless… the massive outpouring of grief and condolences from Canadian’s has not been limited to NDP diehards.  When you do a job well and with passion and integrity as Jack Layton did, your impact with extend beyond your immediate circle and touch the lives of people in ways you will never know.
  5. Nice guys can finish ahead… Unlike many politicians, Jack Layton avoided mud-slinging and sabotage campaigns, favouring instead to talk about positive change and an optimistic future.  His final message to Canadian’s is one that all leaders should take to heart…

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

RIP Jack.  Your passion and energy will be missed.

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