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The softer side of 'Rahmbo' Emanuel?

Rahm Emanuel, Obama's departing chief of staff, may have ridden to the top on his hard-charging style. But now that he's entered the race to become the next mayor of Chicago, he's presenting a gentler side to voters. In his campaign announcement video on YouTube, Emanuel is almost soft-spoken, talking about his neighborhood listening tour and his roots in the city. There's scarcely a whiff of the bare-knuckles approach that earned him the nickname Rahmbo.

Which leaves me wondering: Can Emanuel shake his abrasive image without losing his reputation for being a tough fighter? How much do leaders need to be likeable?

While conventional wisdom may say it's more important to be respected than likable, some leadership books posit that a charm offensive matters more. The reigning buzzwords in leadership circles are not command or control, but humility, authenticity, and the faddish "servant leadership." One need look no further than the popularity of Stanford professor Bob Sutton's quirkily titled but research-based book The No A**hole Rule to know that in the leadership world, if nice is in, mean is out.

Rahm's first fight may be getting the legal approval to actually run for the mayor of Chicago after living in D.C. for the last 18 months. But his next is sure to be convincing voters that he's not really the profanity-laced caricature he's become. At this point, so many people associate Emanuel with the sharp-tongued Washington insider fighting for the president's agenda that seeing him as a mayor magnanimously trying to help all Chicagoans may be a stretch for some.

At the same time, Emanuel can't back down too much from his penchant for a fight: It's one of his biggest strengths, and one his potential constituents will expect from him. So what should Rahm do? Start by walking the middle ground, at least until the election. While he shouldn't do anything that draws unnecessary attention to his rough edges, he shouldn't try to hide them, either. Kissing too many babies and sitting around too many photo-op friendly kitchen tables may not look authentic, and no matter how much of a buzzword that may be, it really does matter. Oh, and leave the dead fish at home.

By Jena McGregor

 |  October 4, 2010; 10:56 PM ET |  Category:  Advice , Career Management , Government leadership , Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Nuke the Republicans, Vote Democrat.

Posted by: Uoughtano | October 6, 2010 10:42 PM

I demand a Congressional Inquest into the fish. I can be called any day to present my case. GMKing

Posted by: spk202 | October 6, 2010 5:47 PM

D--bag. (DOOSH-bag). 1. Rahm Emmanuel. 2. any slimy, contemptuous individual.

Posted by: fleeciewool | October 6, 2010 12:58 PM

I can sum up Chicago's attitute toward him in two words: F**k-Rahm!

Posted by: danders5000 | October 6, 2010 12:50 PM

Frankly, I don't give a damn...

Posted by: elizabeth6 | October 6, 2010 12:35 PM

I understand he is not eligible to run for mayor under the Chicago law requiring at least 18 months residence and that even though he owns a house there it cannot be rented out. Obama has a home but does not rent it out so he is eligible and I really wish he would run for that office and resign from his current position. But back to the real issue, will Obama be able to reach back to this Chicago machine and get the law changed so this guy can be mayor? Or will the Democrats just ignore the law like they do the Federal laws they are supposed to enforce, such as illegal immigration and illegal drugs. Of course we must realize that Democrats' intellectuals educated at the Nation's leading universities are waived having to adhere to US federal law and the laws of physics.

Posted by: staterighter | October 6, 2010 12:07 PM

Are the Democrats and the media ignoring the law again?

Considering Illinois states a candidate for mayor must maintain a residence in the city or town where he is running for a year in advance of the election, how can Rahm Emanuel run for mayor of Chicago?

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | October 6, 2010 11:58 AM

"Which leaves me wondering: Can Emanuel shake his abrasive image without losing his reputation for being a tough fighter?"

It all depends on what he's fighting for. So far I'm not impressed!

Posted by: garys_opinion | October 6, 2010 10:30 AM

Can we stop hearing about this guy? Isn't he Chicago's problem now? To call his Chief of Staff work "leadership" is an insult to leaders everywhere; he is a foul mouthed, self-serving Wall Street/big money pal.
And just think about it: what office would be considered "appropriate" or even "professional" with such openly foul-mouthed people like him--and Biden. They have both damaged the dignity of the White House--and Obama thinks it's a big joke. You're judged by the company you keep.

Posted by: Beckola | October 6, 2010 8:13 AM

let the whitewashing begin. of course the insiders newspaper will always support one of its own

Posted by: praxitas | October 6, 2010 7:24 AM

The whole situation is strange. He abruptly quits his job and initially he acted as if he already has the job of mayor. He won't get 25%. He should have stayed in D.C.

Posted by: rankcon | October 6, 2010 5:53 AM

This guy is an arrogant c@ck who uses anger as the best tool in his tool box. Would you rather have him work for you or John Boehner?

Posted by: citizen625 | October 5, 2010 10:04 PM

Please! Enough with the Rahm articles. I didn't want to read about the jerk when he was in Washington, and I certainly am not interested in what he's going now. Who cares? Don't you understand that the only people who care about Chicago are the people who live in Chicago and I'm not sure even more of those people really care. Chicago isn't on my radar. I'd rather read about Berlin or Vienna or Vilnius before I'd read about Chicago.

Posted by: georges2 | October 5, 2010 9:29 PM

Chicago, please elect him as he is your kind of politician. If you do not, the president will bring him back to Washington.
We do not want that here, had enough of his

Posted by: gone2dabeachgmailcom | October 5, 2010 8:57 PM

This tool was a liberal arts dance major in school - still trying to understand how that qualifies him for anything remotely close to the jobs he has gotten. The fact that he gets away acting like a "tough" guy/bully is hilarious.

Posted by: bolt55 | October 5, 2010 8:47 PM

I've worked for for Chicago based elected officials, lived in Chicago and have met Rahm a few times. To call the man arrogant and disagreeable is a significant understatement.

The Mayor's office is the Holy grail for Chicagoans. The people of Chicago won't elect a guy they think is a jerk just because he claims he can "get results".

Chicago is one of the most functional large cities in America, and it's in part because elected officials there have personal relationships with the people they represent. People in that city call their local elected officials for everything from complaints of vermin to garage sale permits, and most Chicagoans know their Aldermen on a first name basis. In Chicago, it's not uncommon for Alders to attend block parties, garage sales, even kids' birthday parties in their ward. Even Mayor Daley at the height of his power would take time off from important events so he could shake hands, take photos and rap with constituents.

Can the same be said for Rahm? Not even close. I once witnessed then Congressman Emmanuel pretend to talk on a cel phone just so that he could avoid talking to one of his constituents. That kind of personality is a real turn off to voters. Rahm should ask One term DC mayor Adrian Fenty if people like to have a disagreeable jerk for a mayor.

Let me put this bluntly: Rahm has a better chance of winning the gold medal in women's synchronized swimming at the Commonwealth games than he does of winning the Mayor's office in Chicago.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but if Rahm were to win A citywide election in Chicago, it would be the biggest political upset since...well, ever.

Posted by: nwrepresent1 | October 5, 2010 8:23 PM

Besides, Rahm is not so much tough as mentally ill. That's how he lost his finger-- to a mental illness episode. That's why he doesn't talk about it.

Posted by: hz9604 | October 5, 2010 8:10 PM

To all of you dumb MFs out there, of which Steven Pearlstein is certainly one, all Rahm has to do is tell the unions they rule Chicago. And he will do it. Rahm will placate the unions, the North Chicago professionals, and visit a South Chicago eatery to deliver lip service, that's it. He's in. Chicago is total corruption and Rahm is the perfect fit.

Posted by: hz9604 | October 5, 2010 8:08 PM

Jena McGregor is part of the media circus and so is repeating the consensus about Rahm Emanuel without knowing anything about him. As such, if he sends her a dead fish she deserves it. If he doesn't, I will. She's another fool with nothing to add to the maelstrom.

Posted by: mbeck1 | October 5, 2010 7:37 PM

This loser will ignore the voters and run up a local deficit...not that the public schools can get much worse.

Rahm...go plant some bulbs and watch them grow. We've had quite enough of you, freak.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | October 5, 2010 6:43 PM

This clown Emmanuel isn't winning anything in Chicago. Despite his efforts to ride into the position of Mayor on Obama's coattails, the people already know he's a big phoney and won't vote him into office. Then Emmanuel will have to use his mob connections to stay employed.

Posted by: jameskim99 | October 5, 2010 5:05 PM

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