Six principles of leadership from Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani became a house-hold name on September 11, 2001 when, as mayor of New York City, he deftly led that city and inspired millions around the world.

Six principles of leadership from Rudy Guiliani

I had the opportunity to listen to the former mayor and potential presidential contender at yesterday’s Lead & Succeed Business Seminar in Minneapolis. Though I’ve heard him share these insights before, I was struck yesterday at how relevant they are not only for leading an organization but also for leading your personal venture. (My takeaways for my own personal venturing are noted in italics.)

  1. Strong ideas. People follow those with strong ideas. “If you’re the captain, you’re responsible to set the destination for the ship,” says Guiliani. What’s the strong idea for each of the initiatives I lead? My business(es), my family, my volunteer activities? What can I do to strengthen them?
  2. Optimistic thinking. Think like a problem solver. Guiliani admonished his team, “Come with either a good idea or bad idea, but don’t come without one.” He described several occasions where doom and gloom thinking occurred in his administration. Each time, he rallied his team to find solutions to the many challenges facing the city. Am I intentionally identifying the challenges I face and developing a specific action plan or simply burying them under the rug until they become too big to ignore?
  3. Courage. Leadership requires taking risks. And taking risk involves failure. If you’re afraid to fail, you won’t take the risks necessary to be successful. “There’s no one who’s been successful that hasn’t failed,” Guiliani reminded us. Fear of failure is natural and inevitable. In what ways are my present fears keeping me from being appropriately courageous? 
  4. Relentless preparation. On 9/11, New York City had no disaster plan for a terrorists using planes as missiles. But  they were able to spring into action quickly because they had plans for other possible emergencies: flooding, electrical outages, medical evacuations; all of which were a component of 9/11. “If you prepare for everything you can think of, you’ll be prepared for the unthinkable,” said Guiliani. Do I take the time to imagine and plan for alternative outcomes, or do I rely entirely on my ability to shoot from the hip in the time of crisis? 
  5. Teamwork. “What are your weaknesses?” Guiliani asked. Identify your weaknesses and surround yourself with those who compliment what you do. No one is fully able to cast a perfect vision, imagine all the challenges, and execute a perfect plan. In what ways do those that help me advance my vision complement my present weaknesses? Who’s missing? How might I better assess the areas I need the most help with?
  6. Communication. “Failure occurs when people don’t know what’s expected of them,” Guiliani reminded us. It’s easy to assume that they may know something they don’t. Take the time to communicate. The most powerful way to do that is to be available during another’s crisis. “It’s more important to be at a funeral, than a wedding,” Guiliani said. “That’s when they need you the most.” In what ways can I improve the way I communicate to those I work with? When was the last time I asked them?

What other leadership principles would you add to this list?

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