Giuliani speaks on crisis leadership principles

Andrew Pritchard

After walking onstage to a standing ovation Friday, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spoke in St. Paul about crisis leadership.

Giuliani, who led New York during last year’s terrorist attacks, thanked Minnesotans for their support and praised the World Trade Center rescue workers.

“Their first response was to stand their ground,” he said. “And that set the stage for an evacuation that saved the lives of 25,000 people or more.”

Giuliani then discussed six principles of leadership he said carried him through the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“The most important principle of leadership for getting through a crisis … is to have a philosophy, a religion, a set of beliefs, an ideology” about which a leader has thought and in which he or she believes, Giuliani said.

“People do not follow ambiguity,” he said. “People follow clarity.”

Giuliani said former President Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr. and World War II-era British Prime Minister Winston Churchill are examples of people whose beliefs were always clear, regardless of whether others agreed with them.

Giuliani also used Churchill to demonstrate his second principle.

“A leader has to be an optimist,” he said. “Who ever followed pessimism? If you do, there’s something wrong with you, right?”

Giuliani said he’s always wondered if Churchill ever doubted England would prevail over the Nazi air attacks in 1940.

He also said his father taught him to be the calmest person in a crisis and focus on finding a solution.

“That’s what being an optimist is,” Giuliani said. “It isn’t being unrealistic; it isn’t being foolish.”

Thirdly, he said, a leader must be courageous, like the fire captains at the World Trade Center.

“(Bravery) is management of fear, not the absence of fear,” he said.

Preparation was Giuliani’s fourth principle, and he said that must now include preparing for anthrax, smallpox, bombings, hostage situations and other terrorist threats.

“It really is up to leaders to think about this all the time,” he said. “That’s the responsibility of a leader – prepare, prepare, prepare again, think about the worst that could happen.”

Giuliani said New York got through the terrorism crisis partly because of preparations made years before, such as moving the city’s medicine supplies for countering biological terrorism out of the emergency management command facility in the World Trade Center and putting them in hospitals throughout the city.

Giuliani said those preparations occurred largely because of teamwork among his top advisers, his fifth leadership principle.

The former mayor said teamwork is about balance.

“No matter how smart you are and how good you are, there are going to be things you don’t know about,” he said.

Giuliani drew a round of applause when he praised President George W. Bush’s foreign policy and national security advisers.

“Whether you agree with him politically or not … it’s a great team,” Giuliani said, “and that’s really the core, ultimately, of leadership.”

Giuliani’s final principle of leadership was communication, which he said is the easiest part of leadership if a leader has followed the other five ideas.

“Communication is not always all about words,” he said. “It’s also about action, deeds, example.”

Following his speech, Giuliani answered question from WCCO-TV anchorman Don Shelby, including the question that prompted another standing ovation: “Would you like to be president of the United States?”

Giuliani said he loves public office but will be out of it for a while and didn’t know how he would re-enter public life.

“I think it’s almost sacrilegious to answer a question like that unless it’s realistic,” he said. “And right now it’s not.”

Giuliani also said the arrest of five suspected al-Qaida operatives in a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb Friday gave him hope the intelligence failures that led to last September’s terrorist attacks were being corrected.

Suspected terrorists arrested

the five Americans of Yemeni descent arrested in Buffalo were charged Saturday with providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations, charges that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

All five suspects pleaded innocent.

“We have the key players in western New York,” said Peter Ahearn, FBI special agent in charge of the Buffalo field office.

According to the criminal complaint, the five men trained together at al-Qaida’s al-Farooq camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan – the same camp John Walker Lindh attended.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Pritchard covers state politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]