Scoping Out the Leaders

Marlin Agoub | New University

Marlin Agoub | New University

Former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani visited the UCI campus last week, speaking to students about leadership.

Rudy Giuliani, most widely known as the former mayor of New York City, visited UC Irvine last Tuesday to give a talk to students at UCI on leadership. Over four hundred students, alumni, parents and others were in attendance to hear him speak on what it means and what it takes to be a leader.

The event, sponsored by the Social Science Academic Resource Center and National Society for Leadership and Success, was taped to broadcast on the NSL website and live-simulcast to 500 schools in the U.S., with students from across the nations tweeting in question using the tag #leaderchat in their tweets.

“Leadership is something that can be taught, not something we’re born with,” Giuliani said. “We learn it just the way we learn math, geography and biology.”

Giuliani began his talk by giving the definition of a leader as one who “sets direction and tells us what we’re trying to accomplish and where we’re going.”

He continued, stating that the best leader is a ship’s captain, as the captain is the one who decides where the ship will go and how it will get there.

“I tried to figure out all the things that made me a leader; I tried to go over all my experiences,” Giuliani said. “I came to the realization that I had just copied other people.”

According to the former mayor, there are six steps one has to take if they wish to become a leader. These six steps include having a strong set of beliefs, being an optimist, having courage, going through relentless preparation, being a team player and communicating often and well.

“Nowadays, a lot of our ideas come from public opinion,” Giuliani said. “This is not a leader, but an actor.”

He continued by citing the example of Ronald Reagan, who, according to the mayor, had a strong set of beliefs that never changed.

“Stick with an idea whether it is popular or not,” Giuliani said. “If you can’t, you can’t lead.”

Giuliani further expressed that optimism forms one of the necessary qualities required for leadership.

“You have to have a thing inside you that says, ‘There’s a problem, there must be something we can do to fix it,’” Giuliani said.

The mayor explained the importance of this idea, arguing that the person who comes up with solutions and fixes a problem is the one that the rest of the population gravitates towards.

“Optimism and problem solving are an enormous and powerful draw,” Giuliani said. “They have to be in the hands of good people. Look at Hitler, he had awful solutions but people were drawn in because he had solutions.”

Giuliani went on to discuss his own experience during the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, and how he felt he was able to lead the city through those hard times.

“I was six miles away talking to a friend about being governor of California when I was informed of the second hit,” Giuliani said. “I was one mile away when the second plane hit, and then I knew it was a terrorist attack. I went on my instincts and hoped that God helps us.”

Giuliani then quoted his father, a boxer, saying, “You can only tell how great a boxer is going to be once he gets knocked down, because that’s when you see how he is able to pick himself up.”

“The art of being a leader is knowing how to balance your strengths and weaknesses,” Giuliani said.

Giuliani further explained how important it is as a leader to ask oneself about their weaknesses.

“Ask your husband or wife, and if you two are just a love fest, then ask your children, I’m sure they’ll have something to say,” Giuliani said.

He went on to explain how when he became mayor of New York, he had two goals in mind: to fix the city’s crime problem and lower the unemployment rate.

The mayor further stressed the importance of communication by telling his audience how he went to every funeral after the events of 9/11 and how it proved to him that being there when someone needs consolation and support is more important than being there when everyone is happy and everything is going well.

According to members of SARC, other candidates for the speech were considered, including pop star Hillary Duff. However, the board eventually decided on Giuliani.

“We’ve seen students transform, it just takes a bit of momentum,” Andrew Gonzales, Associate Director of the Department of Social Sciences, said.

“We wanted someone who embodies what it means to lead in a crisis, to show that leadership is something that is not easy, and that it is something that they can embrace now, not just 10 years from now.”

According to Dr. Jeanett Castellanos, Director of the Department of Social Sciences, the program chose Giuliani due to his strong personality and his unique character.

“Mayor Giuliani is a model of civic leadership, he put his life on the line to represent and provide for his community and city,” Castellanos said.

“We want to have our students recognize the importance of responsibility the leadership and Rudy Giuliani is the essence of this.”