Lesson in diplomacy

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

John Street learned something about leadership one day in 1981. A member of the Philadelphia City Council, Street grew incensed when the council president barred his bill aimed at helping the city’s financially troubled school district.

“Everybody knows that the overwhelming majority of students in the public school system are black,” Street bellowed. “It’s a black public school system, and white people in this council are not going to tell me that I can’t put my bill in.”

Declaring that if he couldn’t introduce his bill, nobody would, Street seized the stenotype machine, setting off a melee that made national news.

He said he learned a lesson that day: “That if I wanted to be an effective leader, I would have to learn how to approach people in a way that they could accept, and not take offense.”

Vowing to improve his reputation, Street worked on his diplomacy skills and the strategy paid off. He later became council president and mayor of Philadelphia.

-- Adapted from “Interview With John F. Street,” James McBride, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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