Yeoh Siew Hoon takes the time to listen to Rudi Giuliani and learns about the six principles of leadership in difficult times.
I was in Jakarta when the two planes hit the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Rudi Giuliani was, of course, in New York City. And over the next few horrific days, we all watched, live on television, while he managed, handled and coped with the worst ever disaster to happen on American soil.
For me, the defining moment of his character came through when, soon after the disaster, he was asked what the death toll would be and he said, "More than we can bear."
A tough man, known for crime busting and straight talking, not afraid of showing his vulnerability ...
A tough man who showed courage and compassion throughout the crisis …
Thus, when the opportunity came to listen to him speak at the Global Brand Forum 2004 in Singapore this week, I grabbed it faster than you could say Rudi.
And he did not disappoint. A polished yet natural presenter, he shared his six principles of "Leadership in difficult times" with clarity and conviction, peppered with a sense of humour.
Are leaders born or made, he asked at opening. "I say they are made but they have to be born first."
He said that leadership was not only important in business but also in our personal lives. "I wrote the book after I got prostate cancer," he said, adding the same principles that helped him get through this personal crisis were the same that helped him during his stint as Mayor of New York City.Principle One: You have to have a set of beliefs.
"You have to know what you stand for, otherwise you will never be able to lead people," he said.
He said he was largely shaped in his thinking by the late Ronald Reagan who "knew who he was and why he was in government".
Dr Martin Luther King Jr "had a self-evident idea that he could change America with non-violence" and he "shamed the vast majority of people into changing".
To deal with September 11, Giuliani clung to two sets of beliefs.
"One, I believe in God and two, I believe there is a plan for things that happen and we have to figure it out.
"I am a lawyer. I pray by making a deal. Dear God, I have made some decisions, please make them right.
"The history of the world is that people who live in freedom overcome people who live in oppression. People who live in freedom have the moral power for correcting ideas.
"People who have something to die for and also to live for will ultimately prevail."Principle Two: To be a leader, you have to be an optimist.
"It's just more fun," he said. "People follow hope, dreams, solutions to the problem."
He told the story of Jack Nicklaus who told a reporter, "I never made a bad shot." When pressed by the reporter, Nicklaus said, "I don't remember them."
"That's the mind of a leader," said Giuliani. "He doesn't visualize things going wrong."
Sometimes, you have to force yourself to be an optimist, he said, citing Winston Churchill, who suffered from clinical depression and yet, through optimism, strength and defiance, held Britain together during World War Two.
"He trained himself to be an optimist," said Giuliani, who said that Churchill was a great source of strength to him during September 11.Principle Three: You must have courage.
"Most people equate courage to acts of heroism. But courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of fear and overcoming it," said Giuliani.
"The only way to deal with terrorism is to understand that while the risk of a terrorist attack in New York City is a big one, the risk of a terrorist attack on an individual is very small.
"More people in Israel are killed by drunk drivers than by terrorists. While it is a big risk for society, it is a small risk for individuals."Principle Four: Relentless preparation.
"You have to prepare your organization for anything that can happen to it," he said,
Citing a former Chief Justice whom he trained under, he said that he was taught that nothing should happen in court that you haven't prepared for. "But something will happen that you haven't anticipated for but you will be ready for because you have prepared for it."
He said that while New York, a city with an emergency a day, had 30 plans in place, "what happened on September 11 was beyond any plan we had but it was a variation of everything we did".
"Teams that win championships are those that have prepared to face every possible contingency."Principle Five: Teamwork.
"You must understand the importance of people around you. Most leaders think they have the answers to everything and that it's a weakness not to know. But no one has all the answers.
"The art of being a great leader is to understand your weaknesses and find the people who can balance them."Principle Six: You have to be able to communicate.
"Whether it's through speaking or writing, you have to be able to get the message out of yourself to other people," he said.
If this fails, then put aside thinking of communication and think of the five principles above and communicate them.
One, know what you believe; two, train to be an optimist; three, have courage to overcome fear; four, prepare; and five, understand teamwork.
"Communication then becomes telling what you think."
Well, Guiliani certainly told the audience what he thought as he touched on issues such as whether personal integrity compromised public figures (so long as it does not affect job performance) or how to deal with terrorists (deal with them as you would kidnappers, don't give in to their demands).
His other concern was how the world was suffering from a massive attention deficit disorder and how nobody had the time to listen to a great symphony or read a long poem anymore and that this was leading to the creation of superficial values.
As I listened to his speech, which lasted for about an hour, I was glad I had taken the time, and paid attention, to what he had to say.
Because if there was one thing I learnt from listening to Giuliani, nothing beats listening to a good story teller who tells it from the heart, and experience.The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection". She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.
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