Siegel, Michael Eric

Leading Edge

Leadership. By Rudolph W. Giuliani (with Ken Kurson). New York: Talk Miramax Books, 2002.

Rudolph Giuliani has faced many leadership tests. As a prosecutor, he brought several organized crime figures to justice. As a two-term Republican mayor of New York City, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by five to one, he was credited with major improvements in a city frequently described as “ungovernable.” Finally, in the most highly publicized of all of his accomplishments, Mr. Giuliani courageously led his beloved city through the worst terrorist attack ever to befall the United States.

What has he learned about leadership from all these experiences? Quite a bit, it turns out. In Leadership, Giuliani shares what he has learned in an engaging, honest, sometimes humorous, and frequently poignant manner. I strongly recommend this book not only as a good read, but also as an excellent resource for those who manage and lead in the public sector.

Giuliani recounts the awful experiences of September 11, 2001 in compelling opening and closing chapters, while dedicating the bulk of the book to 14 principles of leadership, such as prepare relentlessly, organize around purpose, surround yourself with great people, everyone’s accountable all the time, develop and communicate strong beliefs, underpromise and overdeliver, and stand up to bullies. Emphasizing that “Leadership does not simply happen. It can be taught, learned, developed,” Giuliani illustrates each principle through cogent examples and meaningful insights.

Two of these leadership principles are particularly apt for court employees: “prepare relentlessly” and “everyone’s accountable all the time.”

Prepare relentlessly

Preparing relentlessly requires leaders to resist the temptation to take anything for granted. Relentless preparation assisted the mayor in his quest to reduce crime, as he insisted on daily crime mapping and analysis and on the deployment of police resources to the areas of need as revealed by the data.

Relentless preparation also helped Giuliani and his team respond to the nightmare of September 11, 2001. This was not the first time they had to respond to a crisis, and they were able to apply some of the procedures developed in response to earlier emergencies, such as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The time they spent planning and simulating emergency response efforts turned out to be helpful in spite of the unprecedented nature of the 9/11 emergency. Giuliani calls the successful evacuation of 25,000 people from the twin towers on 9/11 one of the “greatest rescue operations in history.” There is a good lesson here for court leaders currently challenged with developing Occupant Emergency Plans and Continuity of Operations Plan blueprints for their courts. While our human tendency is to resist preparing for emergencies, advance planning really pays off when a crisis actually occurs.

But there is another dimension of relentless preparation that informs leaders. Giuliani is an enthusiastic advocate of continual learning. He created a course in city government for himself as he prepared to take on the challenges of managing America’s largest city. He recognizes the influences of great leaders from the past, such as Winston Churchill, and testifies to the importance of reading history. He acknowledges that even ideas from academics can help leaders do their jobs-for example, the “broken windows” theory of James Q. Wilson and the “reinventing government” argument of Ted Osborne.

So strong is Giuliani’s belief in learning as an integral part of preparation for leadership, that shortly after September 11, when “free time did not exist,” he took some to “learn more about the issues that had been forced upon the city.” He carved out time to read Joseph Bodansky’s Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, and then met with the author. He also met with Henry Kissinger to try and understand the global dynamics of a “world transformed” (the ironic title of Kissinger’s dissertation at Harvard). While most of us can’t get Henry Kissinger on the phone, we can make the time to continue learning about issues of importance to the judiciary and to accelerate that learning during periods of great personal and organizational transition.

Everyone’s responsible all the time

The former mayor describes a sign that was prominently displayed on his desk: “I’m responsible.” He states, “Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than a willingness to take responsibility for what happens during his watch”-words that would make Harry Truman beam and can inspire all who believe in outcomes-based management.

Giuliani claims that under his “watch” (1993-2001), murder, burglary, auto-theft and shootings all declined by 70 percent in New York City. During those years he also asserts that overall crime fell by 57 percent, and that there was a striking 93 percent reduction in inmate-on-inmate violence in the city’s jails. Even allowing for some measure of exaggeration, these numbers compel our attention (and other sources support their general accuracy). The logical question is: How does a leader achieve results like these?

The answer lies partly in Hizzoner’s willingness to accept responsibility for driving down the crime rate and making sure that his deputies and staff shared that same sense of responsibility. It is also clear that Giuliani knows how to create a culture of responsibility and an organization built on performance by focusing systematically on the causes of problems and on the likelihood of success of different solutions.

For example, Giuliani says that for years police forces focused on the number of arrests to prove their success in fighting crime. Obviously, though, by the time of the arrest the crime has occurred and it’s really too late to claim success. Instead, Giuliani and his original crime-fighting team, including former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton (now police chief in LA) and his deputy, Jack Maple, focused on studying crime patterns to evolve a strategy of crime prevention and not just crime control. They used technology to advantage also, developing a computerized system that allowed everyone from the mayor to the police commissioner to the precinct commander to see whose numbers were improving and whose not. It is easy to appreciate the sense of accountability that resides in this kind of an approach. Court leaders can learn from the achievements of the NYPD that they must measure success by performance and outcomes, and not the rhetoric and promises made to the public.

Giuliani’s book is not perfect. He suffers from the public figure’s tendency to claim what some would call excessive credit for accomplishments that were not his alone. He does not dwell on what some saw as his unbecoming effort to stay in office past the end of his term.

Nevertheless, I was impressed by Giuliani’s references to a team effort and to his competent advisers and aides in episodes and events reviewed in the book. All of us who practice public administration on the local level can learn a great deal from the insight and the humanity that emerge from almost every page of this book.



Copyright Administrative Office of the United States Courts Jun 2004

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