Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Giuliani on Leadership

Some wonderful friends took me on a surprise birthday day out. It was such a great day and if you ever get the chance to have lunch in the Unicorn then you are in for a real treat. One of the things I did on our adventure was buy a copy of Leadership in the Oxfam bookshop in Henley. It was a snip at £2 for an almost new hardback edition that originally retailed at £16.99. I love a bargain.

I read this book very quickly and enjoyed it. I was able to read it fast because I am learning How to read a book. There is tons in this book that I was able to skip largely because I have little interest in the detail of being Mayor of New York. There are lots of names and details of roles, people and tasks that I simply couldn't care less about (like how the fire department runs)- so I passed them by. What did interest me is hearing the story of a man who lead a city and nation through one of its most troubled and difficult periods in recent times. Giuliani unsurprisingly has a tip or two on how to lead people which I thought I might learn from.

1. Public vs private: He makes the point at the start that there is a difference between the public and the private in life. 'What I have not included are details from my personal life. The dissolution of my marriage, for example, had nothing to do with my public performance and never affected it in any way' [x]. Really? It is here that we see the difference between secular leadership models and the biblical one. The Scriptures say that your private world does matter- your thoughts, your marriage, your sin, your parenting etc- are crucial credentials for leadership. In fact, these are the marks of qualification for any form of spiritual leadership in the Church. The secular leadership model runs differently and says 'Run our city even if it causes you to screw up your marriage'. With that caveat,  Giuliani seems to have run the city pretty well.

2. Be relentlessly prepared: When he took over the job of Mayor he resolved to learn by listening. A good principle: 'I decided to learn everything I possibly could about the workings of New York's city government'. I also like the question he asked which is perhaps one more leaders should apply. Here it is:

"If I were the Mayor what would you tell me to do?" [56]

Substitute the word 'Vicar' for 'Mayor' and ask the same question of your community and you may get some interesting answers.

3. Be open and honest: 'Every leader, whether in government or business or elsewhere need to internalise the idea that being open and honest about the enterprise is always the best course. Whenever there's a doubt whether to make public a damaging fact , err on the side of disclosure. That disclosure may have a momentary negative effect. But there are two compelling reasons to disclose it. First, it's eventually going to get out anyway, and will be worse because people will wonder what else one is hiding. Second, over time, open and honest forthright leaders build faith with investors and constituents, which is valuable when one eventually does require the public's confidence in the face of bad news' [92]

4. Be responsible: 'As a leader, you have to begin with the proposition that you are responsible, then analyse whether there s something you could have done to prevent disaster or prevent future disasters' [93]

5. Be ideological: 'Great leaders lead by ideas. Ideology is enormously important when running any large organisation.' [171]. He goes on to say ' A leader must not only set direction, but communicate that direction' [183]

6. Be prepared to listen to the other side: Dick Cheney gave him this advice, "You're going to have lots of times in which your principal has to make a decision, and there are three people on one side and three on the other. Go out of your way to make sure the side you don't favour gets a fair hearing'

7. Be committed to study, read and learn independently: Giuliani clearly applied the Covey principle of saw-sharpening. This is a good chapter.  'As usual I turned to a book 'How to write, Speak and Think more effectively', by Rudolf Flesch, which came in handy time and again as I sought to master the art of communication'. I have ordered a copy.

8. Be an optimist: 'Once a leader gives up, then everybody gives up, and there's no hope'. He goes on to say ' It's up to a leader to instil confidence, to believe in his judgement and in his people even when they no longer believe in themselves. Sometimes, the optimism of a leader is grounded in something only he knows-the situation isn't as dire as people think for reasons that will eventually become clear. But sometimes the leader has to be optimistic simply because if he isn't nobody else will be. And you've got at least to try to fight back, no matter how daunting the odds' [298]

9. Be a rebuilder: If this book has a backdrop it is obviously 9/11 and it is here that Giuliani's leadership rose to the fore. As he states, it was all but written before this event but in some ways it was the practices that had informed his life and so enabled him to rise to the challenge. At the end of the book he recalls being at the Memorial at Ground Zero with a Rabbi, 'At the Memorial Joseph Postanik gave perspective to that reality. "The eye is composed of light and dark, " he observed. But you only see from the dark part" [373].

You can read this book in less time than it takes to watch a DVD and if you lead anything there are certainly things to learn. Giuliani writes well, is very engaging and if you want a window into one of the most shocking moments in modern history then it will give you that and more.

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