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Giuliani highlights principles of leadership at Union banquet

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani outlined specific principles of leadership he has gleaned from experience when he spoke to more than 2,000 supporters of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., at the school’s 7th annual Scholarship Banquet Oct. 27.

“When you’re mayor of New York City, if you don’t develop principles of leadership and you don’t think about them, you’re really going to get run over because you really have to stay ahead of what’s going on in order to function day to day,” Giuliani said.

As a result, he began writing a book called “Leadership,” extracting lessons he had learned from being mayor and from serving as a United States attorney and a businessman.

In the midst of writing the book, Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he found that the same principles he used in running a major city were needed in determining what treatment to pursue when his health was failing. The focus of the book then shifted to principles of leadership that can help anyone survive a crisis.

Giuliani said he had written about 80 percent of the book before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He then could not look at the book for months and nearly forgot it existed.

“I went back to it about four or five months later, and it was a very, very strange feeling,” he said. “The book was about how to deal with a crisis, … and even though I thought when I was writing it I had dealt with every emergency, every crisis you could possibly imagine, all of a sudden something happened that I had not imagined and not anticipated, and it gave me a real chance to see the principles that I really think work to get through the worst crises you have to face.”

The most important principle of leadership, Giuliani said, is to know what you believe.

“If you don’t know what you believe, you can’t lead anyone else honestly. And if you don’t know what you believe, you have no place to go in a crisis; you have nothing to hang on to when your life is in jeopardy,” he said.

Giuliani cited the police officers and firefighters who bravely reacted to the 9/11 crisis as examples.

“They have a set of beliefs that drive what they do, and their set of beliefs is very simple,” he said. “They believe that protecting human lives is more important than protecting their own. They embody the highest form of love imaginable, which is they are willing to put their lives at risk to save another human being — not just a friend, but somebody they don’t even know. … And that is the principle that had them going into the buildings while other people were running out. That is belief driving human conduct.”

To be a leader, one also must be an optimist, Giuliani said.

“People follow hopes, dreams and aspirations, and they follow solutions to problems. … You’ve got to be the one to figure out how to solve the problem, and even if you can’t figure out how to solve it, how to approach it,” he said, citing something his father taught him at a young age.

“If you’re ever in an emergency, if you’re ever in a fire, become the calmest person in the room. Don’t get excited,” he recounted his father as saying. “Make yourself deliberately calmer than you feel, and if there’s any chance of figuring your way out of it, you’ll give yourself the chance to figure your way out of it.”

Giuliani said Ronald Reagan was accused of being an eternal optimist, almost unrealistic in the way he saw America.

“But that’s what drew people to him because that’s the America they wanted,” he said. “They wanted an America that fulfills dreams.”

He said Martin Luther King Jr. also was an optimistic leader.

“Dr. King didn’t lead people by saying, ‘Racism is terrible and slavery was worse, and we’re never going to do anything about this,'” Giuliani said. “He led people with a dream, remember? He had a dream of an America in which people were judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. That’s appealing to people from the point of view of solving a problem.”

Third, Guiliani said a leader must develop a sense of ethics by training himself to think of the difference between right and wrong.

“Otherwise you could take all of these talents and principles and use them for evil purposes,” he said. “[Osama] bin Laden, as far as I can tell, is a man who has strong beliefs, and he’s a man who’s trying to solve a [problem]. He’s known as an enormously charismatic leader. What’s the difference? The difference is ethics, morals, a sense of right and wrong.”

Courage also is enormously important to leadership, Giuliani said. But courage is not something a person has or doesn’t have; courage is developed.

“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the presence of fear and being able to overcome it,” he said.

A firefighter who walks into a blazing building to take out a child and isn’t afraid is insane, Giuliani said. If a person doesn’t fear walking into a blazing building, he is not a rational person. Firemen train themselves to overcome their fear, he said, because duty is more important than fear.

Leadership also requires relentless preparation, Giuliani said.

“Any great football coach is a coach that prepares the team better than the other football coaches. … Relentless preparation wins wars, it wins battles, it wins football games and it saves countries when it’s necessary,” he said.

America needs to be courageous and relentless in preparing for terrorism, Giuliani said. The nation needs to go about its business of traveling and working and being America, but it also needs to pay attention to terrorism and prepare in all possible ways.

Another principle of leadership Giuliani shared is teamwork. He explained that he was able to endure 9/11 because of a terrific team of people he could rely on. He had a police commissioner who had tremendous experience in dealing with global terrorism, a fire commissioner who was a firefighter for 29 years and had fought fires during the worst period of time for New York City when the Bronx was burning, and a director of emergency services who had spent his lifetime learning the enormously complex communication network of New York City, to name a few.

“If you are ever put in charge of anything, the first thing to ask yourself is, ‘What are my weaknesses, and how can I balance those weaknesses with the strengths of other people?'” Giuliani said.

No one’s level of knowledge is equal, so defer to those with better judgment on the subject, he said.

Giuliani mentioned that President George W. Bush put together a successful cabinet because he knew he was a governor, not a military man. In the previous administration, foreign policy had been minimized and domestic policy had been emphasized, Giuliani said. Bush knew he had to bring in people who were experts in foreign policy and the military.

Finally, Giuliani said a person who is running an organization must remember it involves managing human beings, not statistics.

“To be a really effective leader, you have to love people,” he said. “They have to be important to you as people, not just as baseball players or soldiers or police officers or economists or teachers or students.”

The Union University Scholarship Banquet is an annual event to raise scholarship funding for Union students. David Dockery, president of the university, announced Oct. 27 that more than $400,000 was raised this year, with the largest attendance ever. Previous banquet speakers include James Baker III, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, John Major and Lou Holtz.

Union is experiencing record enrollment in the 2003-04 school year with just over 2,800 students from 43 states and more than 30 countries. For the seventh straight year, Union has ranked in the top tier of universities in the South as reported by U.S. News & World Report. Located in Jackson, Tenn., Union is affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: QUALITY CHARACTERISTICS.

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  • Erin Curry