What We Can Learn From Mayor Daley

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley signaled the end of an era this week when he announced that he would not seek re-election for another term.

While the mayor has made many mistakes and been guilty of more than a few strong-arm plays, it's hard not to admire his many achievements. He has reshaped his city more than any other mayor in America, making it greener, more progressive, and arguably more fun. Evidence of this abounds, from Millennium Park, the lakefront, the museum campus, and our numerous median strips.

All of this is even more remarkable when you consider what type of candidate he was from the outset. Ill-spoken, unglamorous, with patriarchal baggage from the late Boss Daley Sr., he was in short, awful. But in true Chicago fashion, he kept plugging away at it, unglamorously, diligently, until he became one of our most iconic figures.

We can (and will) debate his occasional dictatorial lapses, but my sense is that in the not too distant future, we will come to look back at this time as Chicago's glory days. Much of his success can be attributed to a single, overriding quality that colored every facet of his term as mayor.

Mayor Daley loves Chicago.

Passion for your city can go a long way toward overcoming your limitations, and it can go a long way toward overcoming resistance to your goals. His passion was infectious, and brought many of his more lukewarm constituents on board with his program. You could fault his methods, but never his all abiding love of the city.

I'm hard-pressed to think of another quality—not talent, hard work, nor intelligence—that serves a leader so well. The best designers I know are passionate to a fault about their work. The best clients are without fail the ones who love what they do and the organization for whom they do it.

What are you passionate about? What keeps you in love with your company? How do you think you will be remembered when you have moved on to other opportunities?

A good way to keep yourself mindful of the importance of your work is to always bear in mind the legacy you will leave behind.