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Mayor offers lessons in Chicago leadership

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Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley speaks to a management class Thursday.
Mayor Richard M. Daley: “I don’t care where you go in leadership — it’s truly about making decisions.”

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

As seven students made a presentation to their Management 495 class Thursday, explaining why Chicago should host the 2016 Olympics, they positioned a cardboard cutout of President Barack Obama at their side.

While the cutout represented the nation’s dedication to getting the Olympic Games, another prominent supporter of Chicago’s bid watched from just a few feet away — Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Carolina Zuluaga, one of the student presenters, said the group spent three weeks preparing for Daley’s visit to the business course taught by faculty members Michael Miller and James Gillespie.

“Every one of us was nervous, and we practiced a lot, too,” said Zuluaga, a senior in finance. “It was a wonderful experience.”

Daley listened to their presentation, then shared his own insights on the qualities of a good leader.

Since he was elected mayor in 1989, Daley has overseen the creation of Millennium Park, the renovation of Navy Pier, efforts to decrease the city’s crime rate and the push to create new and improved city schools under the Renaissance 2010 Plan.

Strong leaders have a vision of what they want to accomplish and aren’t afraid to make tough choices, Daley told the students.

“As a leader, you have to be able to move people,” he said. “People are reluctant to make a decision. I don’t care where you go in leadership — it’s truly about making decisions.”

And if you make the wrong decision, you have to be willing to change it, Daley said.

“You have to be flexible and you can’t take it personal,” he said. “You have to be able to get through the rough spots.”

To successfully lead a city, Daley said, it’s important to improve public schools and provide alternatives. Without high-quality education, he said, more families move away from cities and into the suburbs.

“The big key to the future of the city is education,” he said. “There needs to be competition — from charter schools, private schools, technical schools. You need more after-school programs, mentoring, computers and cultural activities.”

Daley recalled the strong leadership skills of his late father, former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. His father, he said, was integral in bringing a U of I campus to Chicago, knowing the importance of higher education in making cities thrive.

“He wanted the university close to downtown, close to transportation and close to job opportunities,” Daley said.

“You rebuild the city from the core, not from the outside. Most cities turned their back on higher education, and that was the biggest mistake they made.

“My father firmly believed that this university would serve a diverse population. This is truly a great university and something we can truly be proud of.”

UIC is helping leaders learn how to improve cities, Daley said, with events like the annual Richard J. Daley Urban Forum, a gathering for mayors from across the globe. This year’s forum on April 27 will focus on recovering from a global economic crisis.

“We have mayors coming from around the world and we talk about common problems,” he said.

Hosting the 2016 Olympic Games would let the world discover — or rediscover — Chicago, Daley said.

The city is a finalist to host the games, along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee will visit finalist cities this spring, with the host city announced Oct. 2.

“We looked at how well we can control crowds and our history of hosting world events and thought that it’s logical for us to look at the Olympics,” he said. “It really puts you on the global map.”

In their presentation, the UIC business students sold Chicago as the host city by describing its diversity, experience in hosting large-scale sporting events, many transportation options and world-class passion for sports.

Daley said he was so impressed with their points that he would try to arrange for them to make their presentation to Chicago’s Olympic committee.

“I really congratulate the students for the wonderful presentation,” he said. “Young people have a different perspective.”

Daley last spoke to UIC business students seven years ago, said Miller, clinical assistant professor of managerial studies.

“We are excited about the student learning opportunity here,” Miller said.

“The mayor brings to the classroom a wealth of experience, and he always brings a great respect and admiration as one of the best mayors in the world.”


Below: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley talks with business administration alumna Lucy Chen after his lecture to students for faculty member Michael Miller’s “Executives in the Classroom” course Thursday.

Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

hicago Mayor Richard M. Daley talks with business administration alumna Lucy Chen

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