Former two-term New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani was the opening keynote speaker for the inaugural JCK NYC Invitational Show, which opened Sunday at the New York Hilton.
In his presentation, titled “Principles of Leadership,” the mayor addressed the concept of being a leader both in theoretical terms and in real terms, particularly highlighting how his skills were called upon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
His presentation opened on a lighter note, however, as he first asked the audience how many people were visitors to New York. “Good,” he quipped. “Please spend money. We need the tax revenue.”
Then he asked if any audience members were residents of New Jersey, citing the suit over Ellis Island as a cause of great distress during his mayoral term. Two-thirds of the island—the best two-thirds, he said—were lost to New Jersey in that lawsuit, and Giuliani said he always regretted not having the opportunity to argue in front of [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia that his grandfather, who came form Italy in 1985, didn’t stand on the shore with his meager belongings, and $20 in his pocket, and say, “I’m going to New Jersey.”
“I am glad you’re having your show here,” he told the audience.
He went on to share what he believes are the six qualities of a leader—qualities that are instrumental in helping a person move through a crisis:
1. Figure out what you believe. Know what you stand for, and like the captain of a ship, have a destination and know where you are going.
2. Be an optimist. Not only do you have more fun with a positive outlook on life, he said, but you have to have a positive approach in order to be able to follow your own hopes and dreams and also lead others. You have to be able to imagine [a situation] improved, he said, and offered an example of the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi who, after losing a game, insisted that he didn’t lose, he just ran out of time.
3. Have courage. This is not the absence of fear, he stressed. Everyone has fears—that is normal. Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to understand the risk and work through it.
4. Relentless preparation. This is related to courage, and means taking fear and preparing for it. Figure out your risk and learn to reduce it. He gave the example of a New York City policeman who had heroically jumped into the Hudson River to save someone, only to be completely intimidated by a press conference lauding him later. The policeman faced high risk every day in his job, and had courageously schooled himself to work through it, but when faced with public speaking, it was entirely out of the realm of his experience.
5. Teamwork. A good leader can’t accomplish anything alone, he said. It’s all about how good you are at selecting other people to work with you and, finally,
6. Communicate your ideas to those other people and motivate them. To be successful, a leader has to care about and even love his or her people.
No Giuliani speech would be complete without a discussion of the events of September 11, and indeed he shared not only his reactions to that day but also his views about terrorism as a whole and the security of the world today. He believes the city, and the world, is safer today than prior to 9/11, not more dangerous.
“Reality is just the opposite. Before September 11, the same terrorist acts were happening. The difference is that we were not dealing with it or doing anything about it. It’s most dangerous when we don’t face reality.” Facing the problem, understanding it, and dealing with it are paramount to reducing the inherent danger of any situation, he said. He did, however, say that [his administration] had no warning and had never imagined that airplanes would have been used as bombs the way they were on September 11. If anything, he said, he had expected individual suicide bombers, not ones who would fly a jet into a building.
He explained the root cause of [Islamic fundamentalist] terrorism is extremely repressed governments and societies, where the people have no rights and blame their problems on other societies such as the United States, United Kingdom, or Israel. He feels the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are offering a chance to get accountable governments in place, and reminded the audience that it took at least six or seven years after World War II to rebuild governments. He also pointed out that after the slaughter of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the German government set those terrorists free out of fear of repercussions from other terrorist groups if they kept them in custody. This setting terrorists free out of fear was fairly standard throughout Europe in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and set a pattern over the course of 30 years. As a result, he said, it isn’t surprising that terrorism grew.
He does anticipate there could—and probably will—be another major terrorist attack. He said terrorists don’t tend to repeat the same acts, so he doesn’t think it’ll be identical to the World Trade Center, but he is especially concerned about port security.
During the longer-than-anticipated question and answer session, members of the audience did ask his opinion of the current debate over the handling of U.S. ports. The important thing, he said, is that we focus on security for ports in general, not necessarily about the location of them.
“It’s most important to secure our ports and what comes into them, which means security at ports of departure as well.
Other questions he fielded from the audience covered his views of Hamas (it’s like buying a house when you don’t deal with the real owner) and, the biggest question—is he going to run for President in 2008? That, he said, is undecided, but he promised an answer “in about a year.” It all depends, he said, on who else runs and how many people remember him.
Then he left the room amid a standing ovation and thunderous applause.