Rudy Giuliani Speaks on Leadership in Difficult Times

News Story: October 5, 2008
Leadership is about the convergence of several personality strengths and courage, Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, told a packed crowd of students and faculty at the Edgerton Center Wednesday night during a speech about leadership during tough times.

Giuliani explained his six principles of leadership highlighted in his book, Leadership, and explained his philosophy through the context of historical examples and the current financial crisis. He cited Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as the most influential leaders of the first and second half of the 20th-Century, respectively.

The former mayor argued that both men were influential presidents primarily because of his core beliefs.

“The point is not whether he was right or wrong, it was that he had a set of beliefs,” Giuliani said of Reagan. “If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t help anyone else get there.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is another example of a leader whose vision helped him inspire people to a more just society.

“He closed his eyes, he looked at an equal America, and he knew that non-violence could take them there,” Giuliani said. “I used to dream about a New York City that was safe.”

“The most important part of being a leader is knowing what you believe,” Giuliani said, citing firm beliefs as the first principle of leadership. “Being a leader is guiding people to success.”

Students can become bold leaders by getting a great education and then seeking out others with more experience from whom they can learn, he said.

Giuliani’s second principle of leadership is optimism because people don’t want to follow someone who is offering a negative message. Courage is the third principle of leadership. The leaders who are afraid but who move past their fears are the most successful.

“Courage is not about not having fear,” he said. “[Leaders] don’t let fear stop them.”

The fourth principle is relentless preparation. A leader who is well-prepared will have the wherewithal to respond to unforeseen circumstances and adjust tactics. He cited the Sept. 11 attacks, stating that New York City had no plan in place to deal with such an attack. But, the city’s strong hurricane preparedness and its plans to deal with other types of attacks helped city officials respond.

The fifth principle is to recognize your own weakness and solicit help from people who help fill those gaps.

“No matter what you run, no matter what you’re in charge of, the way you make an organization better is to balance strengths and weaknesses.”

The sixth principle is effective communication in order to motivate people.