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Cullerton: “I like to be liked rather than feared”

Thursday, Feb 1, 2018

* From an NCSL interview of Senate President John Cullerton

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

I like to be liked rather than feared. We have a supermajority. In Illinois, that is 36 votes; we have 37. My goal is to bring everybody together. We need 36 votes to override the governor, so we don’t have a lot of votes to spare. […]

How did being the eldest in a large family prepare you for leading the Senate?

I have five sisters and three brothers and so does my wife. I look upon my caucus as a family. I’m sort of like the oldest sibling. You learn how to negotiate.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Jefferson - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    well put, senator cullerton.

  2. - Not Rich - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:15 am:

    that concept is a little easier in the Senate. And, the President has done a masterful job at leading that Chamber.

  3. - Robert the Bruce - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    He describes himself honestly. And I bet he wishes he could precede each of his quotes with “Unlike Rauner and Madigan…”

  4. - The Prince - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    but if you must choose one, being feared is by far more superior

  5. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:29 am:

    ===being feared is by far more superior===

    For whom? That style doesn’t necessarily produce better results. I’ve worked for ‘fear me’ supervisors and it was an absolutely toxic environment. I’ve also worked for supervisors who wanted to be liked too much and their authority was undermined. The best leaders make people want to work with them; not out of fear but respect.

  6. - Mr. Miyagi - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:37 am:

    Cubs 16′

    I think it’s a quote from the Prince by Machiavelli

  7. - What's in a name? - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:39 am:

    I heard its better if you avoid sin because you love God. I also heard its OK if you avoid sin out of a fear of hell.

  8. - Mr. Miyagi - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:41 am:


    that’s deep

  9. - Fixer - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:42 am:

    Cubs, it’s a spin on a quote from Machiavelli, I believe (given the user’s handle).

  10. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:45 am:

    Thanks. I obviously didn’t catch the reference.

  11. - SSL - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:48 am:

    I’ll take inspiration over intimidation every time.

  12. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:49 am:

    You can be loved and feared, if the latter is used rarely and effectively.

  13. - Mr. Miyagi - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:54 am:

    though the whole point of the prince is you want the public to think you are honorable and likeable, yet you act contrary in private because it’s more beneficial….

    so Cullerton saying that is ironic because that’s what Machiavelli would encourage people to say and act like, but not actually mean..

  14. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    I think Cullerton is doing it right, because he is eminently likeable.

    I think it’s also more fun to aim to be liked than feared. I think day-in, day-out, Cullerton is having fun. He likes his job, and it shows.

  15. - Angel's Sword - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 11:15 am:

    I don’t think these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. I would argue Madigan is both feared and “likeable” (in the sense that a lot of the caucus is satisfied with him, or at least owe him something since he had a hand in recruiting a fair number of them to run.)

  16. - Rasselas - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    Cullerton was, quite literally, born to do this job.

  17. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 11:17 am:

    Like everyone Cullerton would probably be a lot better at his job if Madigan was not the Speaker.

  18. - BucknIrish - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 11:35 am:

    Him and Radogno were the only leaders who seemed willing to put Illinois in front of the party. They show how much more effective politicians can be when they don’t take themselves too seriously.

  19. - Norseman - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 11:48 am:

    Being a pal and well liked are not qualities of a leader. I’m not advocating ruthlessness, but there are times when a leader has to twist arms. A leader needs to be fair, needs to listen and needs to ensure the mission of the organization is understood and conveyed to the followers.

    Notwithstanding his statement on leadership philosophy, Cullerton understands the points I’ve made. I admire his desire to work with others and consider it to be an important leadership characteristic. On the negative, I thinks he defers too much to Madigan.

  20. - titan - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 12:14 pm:

    The firm’s founder and senior partner liked to say:

    “If you can be liked, great.”
    “If you can’t be liked, try at least to be respected.”
    “If you can’t be respected, make damn sure you’re feared.”

  21. - Soothsayer - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 12:36 pm:

    Cullerton’s caucus is literally family, what with one cousin a sitting Senator and another running in the Western Suburbs. How the Cullertons escape the scrutiny the Daley’s, Madigans, and other family dynasties are under is a mystery to me.

  22. - Radar - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 1:20 pm:

    President Cullerton is a likeable guy and has earned the respect of many, including me. What some think but won’t say publicly is that his desire to be liked sometimes leaves you wondering what side he’s on and where you really stand. He doesn’t like to say no to people because he understands no one wants to hear no.

  23. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Feb 1, 18 @ 4:11 pm:

    “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

    “Good question its nice to be both, but its very difficult…If i had a choice I’d rather be feared.. fear last longer then love… Friendships bought with money mean nothing…You see how I make a joke everyone laughs, I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny… See its fear that keeps them loyal to me…The trick is not to be hated… I treat my men good, but not too good… Cause then if i give them too much… then they dont need me… I give them just enough where they need me but they dont hate me….’C’ don’t forget what I’m telling you…. “

    This is why Cullerton is successful…

    … and why Rauner failed so badly.

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