When Regent University Chancellor and President Dr. Pat Robertson introduced Rudy Giuliani to the 600+ Executive Leadership Series audience members on June 26th, he cited the Mayor’s remarkable career of public service: his tenure as Associate Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan; his service to the city of New York – cutting crime, reducing taxes and encouraging tremendous growth and economic development.
He reflected on the Mayor’s legendary performance after the tragic events of September 11th, citing the world’s recognition of his extraordinary leadership in a time of unthinkable crisis.
With his trademark good humor, Dr. Robertson related the story of their shared prior cancer diagnoses, and his hospital-room call from the Mayor to offer words of encouragement.
Dr. Robertson assured the audience that Mayor Giuliani would not be delivering a political speech – and then with exquisite timing, said, “But we’d be remiss to forget that he does seem to be running for President of the United States.”
Applause for Dr. Robertson morphed into a long and loud welcome for America’s Mayor, as he took the podium and reiterated that he wasn’t at Regent to make a political speech. Instead, he said, he came to talk about the principles a good leader must develop, with a smiling aside about how he himself would apply these during a Giuliani presidency. The crowd was eager to hear about leadership from the man who led a city – and a nation – through the most devastating episode in its history.
There are six such principles, simply stated:
No. 1, and most important: know what you believe;
No. 2 – optimism;
No. 3 – courage;
No. 4 – relentless preparation;
No. 5 – value of teamwork and of the team;
No. 6 – communication.
The first principle – knowing what you believe – is one the Mayor says he borrowed from a leader he referenced many times during his talk, and unabashedly called his hero: President Ronald Reagan, whom he calls “the best model of a president in the last 40 or 50 years.” Reagan was firm in his beliefs, and unwilling to change his beliefs to reflect public opinion polls. “He was flexible, and he’d change his mind,” Giuliani said, “he’d even compromise if the issue didn’t go against his core beliefs.” But for Reagan, as for Giuliani, decisions made on the basis of public opinion polls aren’t made by leaders; they’re made by actors. “People expect more from leaders,” Giuliani says.
The second principal – optimism – is one the Mayor learned from another role model: his father. It’s especially important for a leader, he said. “What if I’d come up here and stood for a minute, and said how bad things are,” he said, punctuating with a heavy sigh. “And then what if I said, ‘there’s no hope’ – and then said ‘Follow me.’” The crowd laughed, but they got the point: no one wants to follow a naysayer. Optimism is inspiring: “It got me through 9/11, and it got me through prostate cancer.”
Third in Giuliani’s list of leadership principles is courage, which he defines not as the absence of fear, but rather the acknowledgement of it. He talked about the number of firefighter funerals he’s attended – as recently as this week – and he always noted when people refer to them as having no fear. “You can’t be a fireman without being afraid of fire – you can’t be a cop if you’re not afraid of crime.” A real leader will use that fear to help make the situation (read: the world) better.
It is in fact the understanding of this definition of courage that leads to the fourth principle, one that the Mayor talked about from a place of experience: relentless preparation. He described the morning of September 11th, having breakfast and hearing that a twin-engine plane had hit the North tower. His experience told him that it is often the nature of emergency situations that much of the initial information is inaccurate. Responders deal not only with the emergency itself, but with the changing situation as facts are revealed. Giuliani remembered thinking it was the worst thing that had ever happened. But he was guided by the words of his first boss, a Judge who had told him to prepare his cases “relentlessly.” For every hour in court, prepare for 4 hours – because something will come up. On 9/11, when even more attacks were anticipated, as he made the series of unthinkable decisions the crisis demanded, Giuliani was grateful that he had prepared the city for several different emergencies, never imaging that every one of those plans would be adapted and implemented for one terrible morning. “Knowing those plans were in place gave me the confidence to proceed,” he told the audience.
The importance of teamwork – and the value of the team itself – is a principle the Mayor emphasized. “It’s never about the leader,” he said. “If the team does well, the leader looks like a genius.” If not, clearly the opposite is true.
Finally, principle No. 6: communication. It’s absolutely vital. Giuliani told the crowd it’s not enough to know these things – a leader has to be able to communicate them to people at all levels. He stressed how important it is to be honest. Always be honest, he said. It goes to standing by what you believe, and not compromising on your core values.
“So how do I connect these principles to the campaign?” he asked, tongue firmly in cheek. A good politician knows when to go for a laugh, and Giuliani is no exception. He referred to the twelve commitments he had promulgated as necessary for the next President, and then reported a subsequent newspaper cartoon that depicted him in Mosaic robes, holding two stone tablets.
Turning serious, the Mayor listed a few of the most important of these commitments, with emphasis on the one most important, and the one he fears the Democratic field of candidates doesn’t acknowledge: Islamic extremists. Giuliani wants everyone who hears him to understand that this is the predominant issue of the day. “I call it the terrorist war on us,” he told the audience. “They planned to kill us, and they want to do it again.” He reminded them that September 11th was far from the first Islamic terrorist attack on America and Americans, citing the 1993 New York City bombing, attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 17 Americans killed on the COLE.
Giuliani says the Democrats don’t acknowledge how strong the threat of Islamic terrorism is. While he thinks that attitude was understandable in the 1990s, it is not so now. He’s incredulous that anyone would want to give an enemy a timetable for our retreat. He’s quick to point out that such views don’t come from a lack or patriotism or support for American troops, but rather simply from denial.
While his talk wasn’t billed as a political speech, and his references to the campaign came from the context of explaining his views of leadership, he is running for President. And it’s not possible to separate the man from the campaign. He is, after all, one of the frontrunners in the race for the White House. He didn’t shy away from encouraging the receptive crowd – a mix of community and business leaders, and Regent faculty and students – to consider his remarks as both a primer on leadership and as a measurement of his qualifications for high office.
The Q&A period and subsequent press conference presented him the opportunity to field some tough questions. Why did he not include his stand on abortion in his speech? a questioner asked. Giuliani was unapologetic: he’s given his leadership speech some “400 times,” and abortion isn’t part of it. He didn’t purposely avoid it, but doesn’t see it as relevant to his thoughts on leadership.
“Was your performance on 9/11 enough to make people vote for you for President?” Giuliani was emphatic: “No. Don’t judge me by 9/11.” He cited his remarkable accomplishments for the City of New York, pre-September 2001. He cited his experience as a public servant, as an administrator, law enforcement official and manager – and especially his understanding of the threats to the American way of life today. He also urged anyone considering his candidacy not to focus on one issue alone. “Don’t expect to agree with me on everything,” he said, adding, “I don’t agree with myself all the time!”
As he was leaving the press conference, a reporter shouted a question that sent him back to the microphone. “Who’s the first Republican to pull out of the race?”
With great gusto, he answered, “Not me!”
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