Naheed Nenshi

Former Mayor of Calgary | Community Builder

During his 11-year tenure as mayor, Naheed Nenshi led Calgary through one of its most prosperous and tumultuous decades. Alongside unprecedented investment in quality of life, Calgary also saw four states of emergency called that included a devastating flood and a worldwide pandemic. Nenshi’s leadership earned him both national and international recognition, with him being ranked #2 on Maclean’s 2013 Power List and awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize. Drawing on his extensive experience, Nenshi shares insights into Canada’s political landscape and shows leaders how to empower their teams for success no matter the circumstances.

Nenshi served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms between 2010 and 2021, during which Calgary was named one of the best cities to live in the Western Hemisphere. In recognition of his leadership, Nenshi was awarded the World Mayor Prize in 2014 by the City Mayors Foundation. He is also the recipient of the President’s Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Humanitarian Award from the Canadian Psychological Association for his contribution to community mental health.

Prior to his election, Nenshi served as Canada’s first tenured professor of non-profit management at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University. Before entering academia, he was a management consultant for global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and ran his own firm, Ascend Group. His client list included the United Nations, where he explored how corporations can help the world’s poorest people, and the Gap. Today, Nenshi is an intentionally known voice on urban issues. He has presented to audiences across Canada and the world, including the World Economic Forum.

Nenshi is a graduate of the University of Calgary, where he served as president of the students’ union, and holds a master’s in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he studied as a Kennedy Fellow. He is a proud first-generation Canadian of Indian ancestry, whose parents immigrated from Tanzania. His family and his Ismaili Muslim faith instilled in him the ethic of seva, or service to the community, something he tries to live every day.

Our Wet Clay Moment: Five Simultaneous Crises Facing Civilization

As we emerge from the pandemic, we are a civilization community — public health, mental health and addiction, economic justice, environmental emergency, and a reckoning on the issue of equity. Times seem dark, but this is also a moment, an opportunity for extraordinary creativity; a wet clay moment in which we can mould the future with our own service, our own seva.

Equity and How Citizens and Organizations Can Take Practical Action

We have a work to do in building truly equitable spaces. The murder of George Floyd in 2020 showed us we have a long way to go in achieving true anti-racism. Income inequity is almost the highest it’s ever been, we don’t know how to get from reconciliation to reconcile-ACTION, and while we have made great strides towards gender equity and LGBTQ2+ rights, we are not there yet, particularly in helping trans people live lives of dignity and potential.

We may not know what the solutions are, but we also cannot be smug. We have work to do, and that means questioning some deep, and difficult, assumptions we hold in our community and in our organizations.

A Not Very Political Life… but Everything is Political

How can we help the next generation of kids continue to achieve success in a world that seems stacked against them? Naheed Nenshi went from being a poor first-generation kid in Northeast Calgary to attending Harvard, working at McKinsey, speaking in front of the World Economic Forum in Davos, and being named a World Mayor. It’s an extraordinary story, made all the more interesting and inspirational because of how ordinary it is.

Leadership in Crisis

The City of Calgary has called exactly four states of local emergency in its history — and Naheed Nenshi was the mayor for all of them. Correlation does not imply causation.

Using unforgettable images from the 2013 flood, Nenshi synthesizes leadership lessons from his lived experience that leaders can use everyday and shows how crisis leaders can empower others to extraordinary results.

What a Time for Politics

Who’s up? Who’s down? Why in the world did that leader do that? What will happen? Hear smart, unexpected, and incisive commentary on the issues of the day from someone who had a front-row seat for so long — and now can speak even more unfiltered.