Rudy Giuliani Shares His Leadership Thoughts

At the Intuit Financial Services (Digital Insight just announced this new name) event in San Antonio where I was presenting, Rudy Giuliani gave a keynote speech. His topic was 6 keys to leadership; which he framed (somewhat) in terms of managing a company during a crisis. He relied heavily on stories about 9/11 and his experience as New York’s mayor.

While I don’t necessarily agree with all of Giuliani’s political views, I liked his leadership list. Here is some of what he discussed for each of the 6 items:

  1. Have strong beliefs. He discussed the need to know who you are and where you are heading. His “hero” in this area was Ronald Reagan who stuck to his two core beliefs: 1) Communism was evil and needed to be confronted; and 2) massive government programs had become oppressive and were creating a burden for future generations. Giuliani was adamant that you can’t get overly swayed by public opinion.
  2. Be an optimist. He said that people want to follow an optimist, so you always need to find ways to solve problems. But he also mentioned that you can’t be a fool and ignore the realities of the situation. He mentioned how Winston Churchill was clinically depressed, but was still always an optimist.
  3. Have courage. You have to make decisions. Especially in times of crisis, things need to be changed. But this can be risky, because most organizations penalize bad decisions more than they reward good ones. The safest move is often to do nothing. He also said that nobody except a crazy person is fearless, so courage is the process of overcoming fear.
  4. Relentless preparation. Giuliani says that preparation gives you courage; it makes you confident. He used to challenge his team to tell him “why we shouldn’t do it” about a decision that he was about to make; to fully understand the objections in advance. Giuliani made a great observation: “if you prepare for what’s anticipated, then you’ll be prepared for what’s not anticipated.” He spoke about how New York City had develop plans for many different crisis situations, but not for planes flying into buildings. But he was able to quickly develop a plan on 9/11 based on all of the other plans that they had worked on. 
  5. Teamwork. He suggests that you ask yourself “what are my weaknesses?” He says that if you can’t think of anything, then you should ask your husband/wife :-). Leaders need to create balance by hiring people who are strong in the areas where they are weak.
  6. Communications. Leaders are motivators and teachers who succeed based on how effectively they work through others. He also said that you get what you measure, so you need to create real-time feedback mechanisms. Giuliani attributed the dramatic reduction in crime in New York to the city’s CompStat Program where city leaders look at and react to daily reports on crime statistics across every precinct.

My take: This is a great list. I’ve talked a lot in this blog about the first item, strong beliefs — which I refer to as “purpose.” Here’s an excerpt from my eBook The 6 New Management Imperatives from one of the imperatives called provide a clear and compelling purpose:

That’s why organizations need to (re)introduce a clear purpose for their organization that is more compelling than just more profits; a raison d’être that aligns the myriad of day-to-day decisions of all employees.

More recently, I defined four attributes of an Aligned Enterprise:

  1. Purposeful leadership.
  2. Adaptive design.
  3. Customer-connectedness.
  4. Employee engagement.

The bottom line: Lead with purpose!

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

3 thoughts on “Rudy Giuliani Shares His Leadership Thoughts”

  1. Enspiring stuff Bruce. Thank you. I’ve passed these thoughts on to a client who is facing challenging changes in his business. I know he will find them helpful.

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