One fortunate result of the very tragic event of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007 was the leadership change at MnDOT.
Tom Sorel became the new MnDOT Commissioner in April 2008, replacing Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau who was removed from her position as Transportation Commissioner by the State Senate in February 2008.
A true leader is often born in times of crisis. A true leader always shines in times of crisis.
Tom Sorel became the new leader at MnDOT during the crisis of the I-35W bridge collapse. Now he shines again during the current government shutdown crisis.
MnDOT has had three commissioners since I started working there in 2000 – Elwyn Tinklenberg, Carol Molnau, and Tom Sorel. I have nothing to say about the first two commissioners, because I rarely saw them and hardly knew them. I was never impressed by anything they said or did.
But the current Commissioner Sorel stood out in times of peace, and especially in times of crisis.
I have been impressed by a lot of things he did within the agency in the last 3 years. He is a servant leader who has humility and character.
The first thing Sorel did as the MnDOT Commissioner that impressed me was to change the org chart. In all the previous MnDOT org charts, Commissioner was at the top of the chart. But he added Minnesota citizens and then the Governor above his name as the Commissioner.
He is a leader who genuinely cares about employees. I was surprised, as everyone else at MnDOT, to receive a personal Happy Birthday message from Commissioner Sorel. Yes,the note was computer generated and he really didn’t write every single note to every employee. Nevertheless, his idea and thought touched people.
Last Friday Commissioner Sorel sent an email to all employees and encouraged all to write letters to him to express their thoughts about the shutdown and recovery to begin the healing process.
He is a leader who treats employees with respect. He always says that all MnDOT employees are leaders and ambassadors for the agency. And he truly encourage employees to be leaders.
He is a leader who connects and communicates well with employees. He joins employees in the annual Twins baseball game. He participates in meetings and events and makes himself visible and approachable. Before the shutdown, he made an effort to do webcasts or send emails regularly to give updates on the contingency planning.
He is a leader who inspires employees to be their best. He is not a micromanager. He trusts people and gives people confidence to do their jobs.
Servant leadership is Commissioner Sorel’s leadership philosophy and style. He has walked the talk and really set an example as a true servant leader.
Even though we are still in the shutdown crisis and there is a lot of personal and organizational challenges and work ahead, I am confident, we will recover quickly as an agency under Commissioner Sorel’s wise leadership.
MnDOT is better because we have a true leader who can lead not only in times of peace, but also in times of crisis.