Lessons on leadership from Mayor Giuliani

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed the country what leadership is in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. On Oct. 29, he shared his thoughts on the subject with a capacity crowd in Irvine Auditorium that greeted his arrival with a standing ovation.

Giuliani, who signed copies of his book “Leadership” earlier that day at the Penn Bookstore, devoted his Provost’s Spotlight Series lecture to outlining the five principles he said were common to leaders in any line of work. “The first,” he said, “is having a set of beliefs and knowing what they are.” Giuliani cited President Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr. as men who displayed this characteristic and used it to bring about change.

He gave courage as the second principle, then advised the audience, “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is feeling fear and being able to overcome it,” as the firefighters who went into the World Trade Center did. Optimism, he said, is essential to courage; besides, “It’s a lot more fun than being a pessimist.”

The third principle, he said, is relentless preparation. “If you prepare for everything else relentlessly, you will be able to respond to the unexpected as if intuitively.” On Sept. 11, he said, he realized that his emergency response people were in uncharted territory, but as the response evolved, he also realized that they had already prepared for the various disasters that were simultaneously unfolding.

Number four is teamwork. “No leader ever operates on his own or her own,” he said. A leader needs to know his strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to counterbalance the weaknesses. “All human institutions have them,” he said about weaknesses.

Finally, a leader needs to communicate. “You’ve got to be able to talk to people and express what you believe,” he said. Listening matters as much as talking, he added. President Bush, for example, spent three times the scheduled amount of time at the World Trade Center site talking with the construction workers. “The construction workers were advising the President on what to do with the terrorists,” he said.

During the question-and-answer period, Giuliani also said in response to a question about Osama bin Laden, “Being a leader is not a moral judgement. You can lead people for good or evil.” In response to a question about spending priorities, he also expressed doubts about the effectiveness of education as inoculation against poverty and crime. “To move people out of poverty, you have to begin with a safe community,” he said.

Originally published on November 14, 2002