“Follow me. I’m right behind you.”

Former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie died a week ago.  What struck me the most in the many articles written about him and his time in office, was the immense respect politicians and citizens had for him.  In our current political climate, where it seems many politicians are more concerned about their political profile than about their constituents, respect is a word that seems to be associated with politicians less and less often.

A recent blog “Five Ways to Influence at Work, with or without a Title” reviewed some of the leadership attributes outlined in Nan Russell’s book “The Titleless Leader”. While Bill Norrie most definitely had a title, many of the traits Nan Russell mentioned were also mentioned in admiration by former colleagues of Bill Norrie.

Nan describes true leaders, with or without a title, as ‘being ego-detached’.  Glen Murray, another former Winnipeg mayor, was quoted as saying “His detractors used to say his leadership style was ‘Follow me, I’m right behind you.’  But this was a man who had very little ego.  Many of the things he pulled together and organized, he put in the hands of other people to lead.”  It takes a strong person, a confident person, a person who cares more about results than accolades, to do that.  And when a person is strong, confident and caring, people follow and results are achieved.

Leaders ‘let go of what was as quickly as possible’.  Norrie took over the reins at a time when the North American economy was changing. Winnipeg industry suffered, jobs were lost and city growth lagged.   But instead of watching helplessly, he ‘chose growth over fossilization’.  Norrie spearheaded an ambitious plan to revitalize downtown Winnipeg, with one result being The Forks, a beautifully reclaimed industrial wasteland, now enjoyed year round by Winnipeg citizens and tourists.

There is a check-list that Nan includes in her book, that I believe could also be used to describe Bill Norrie:

Well-intentioned behaviors

Integrity, ethics and trust

Positive influence designed to make a difference

Honest relationships focused on big-picture outcomes and common goals

Sharing, cooperation and collaboration

Bill Norrie’s influence and leadership did not end when he left office, and I don’t believe it will end with his death.  He touched lives, he influenced people and his leadership style inspired others to lead the same way.

We all have that same opportunity.  We all have the opportunity to lead, to facilitate positive change and to influence others.  Our reach may be smaller,but that does not make it less valuable or valued by the people we serve.

2 thoughts on ““Follow me. I’m right behind you.”

  1. Some can have a title without ever really leading. Bill Norrie was not only a politician, but an activist. His legacy on our city will continues. You are right, that speaks to his leadership.

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