Why Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wants You To Disagree With Him

He runs one of the largest cities in the U.S. and has worked for two U.S. presidents. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel knows that in order to get things done a leader needs to both encourage healthy debate and know when to make a decision.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel's work day consists of meetings and decisions that affect millions of lives--no big deal to someone who's not a stranger to high-stakes politics.

Emanuel is a veteran politician who served in the Clinton White House as one of President Clinton’s senior advisers. Before winning the Chicago mayoral election in 2011, he was President Obama’s White House chief of staff for two years.

Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Bob Safian sat down with the mayor and asked him how he makes it all work. His secret? Getting people to disagree with him.

“[I] have to create an atmosphere where . . . my cabinet and staff can challenge me and challenge what we think we’re gonna do,” Emanuel says.

He might take their head off, he jokes, but he will listen to what they have to say.

He draws some inspiration from the two presidents he’s worked for--President Clinton and President Obama--who encouraged the same spirit of debate in the office. “They wanted you to disagree. They wanted somebody who would be willing to have a different set of assumptions and willingness not to be scared of challenging [them].”

But once he makes a decision, talking is officially over.

“You don’t continue to debate,” he says. “I don’t like paralysis of analysis.”

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