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Leadership - Book Review

1 July 2014
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

The book "Leadership," authored by Rudolph Giuliani in 2002 during his tenure as Mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, expounds upon his leadership philosophy. Giuliani draws from many examples from his roles as mayor, attorney general, and various other positions. The pivotal focus of the book is his management of the Twin Towers disaster on September 11, 2001, and the subsequent aftermath.

The book delves into the following topics:
  1. Conviction

  2. Learning, Planning, and Promotion

  3. Managing Your Subordinates

  4. Effective Interactions with Others

This autobiography, penned with the assistance of a ghostwriter, is narrated in the first person. The narrative of the Twin Towers disaster is intricately woven throughout the book, serving as a pivotal component that underscores his leadership philosophy and its practical application. Furthermore, it allows readers to delve deep into the intricacies of these events, regardless of their preconceived notions or impressions about the disaster and its recovery.

While some of the content may seem self-evident, as many leadership principles share common threads, the unique combination of these principles sets Giuliani and his leadership journey apart. This summary provides an overview of the book's key elements, but I highly recommend reading it for a comprehensive understanding.


Taking Responsibility

An effective manager and leader willingly assume responsibility for all occurrences under their authority.


Giuliani's recommended approach consists of three stages:

  1. Formation of Beliefs

  2. Public Expression, Explanation, and Advocacy of Held Beliefs—Unfiltered

  3. Consistent Action in Alignment with These Perceptions—Upholding Promises

Managing Agenda Items

One of the technical tools guiding Giuliani's management and leadership is conducting daily morning meetings. These meetings facilitate a close understanding of all requirements and issues, ensuring the ability to make well-structured, timely decisions and monitor their implementation. These meetings carry significant importance about people: on the one hand, they foster personal connections through direct interaction; on the other hand, they instill a sense of accountability. Participants prepare for these meetings knowing they will be questioned about matters within their expertise and responsibilities.

Situational Control

Gaining control over a situation involves a meticulous study of the subject, including a deep dive into the finest details. It requires unwavering diligence and a commitment to working harder than anyone else. Controlling a situation entails grasping information, contemplating various alternatives and their implications, delaying decisions until fully prepared (sometimes even earlier in a crisis), and adhering to decisions despite the associated costs. However, maintaining control doesn't mean you can never change your perspective. Always allocate time for people to voice their opinions and be open to flexibility.

Tangible Achievements

Giuliani's approach involves breaking down each task into manageable subtasks that lead to evident, immediate accomplishments. Subsequently, he focused on communication and expansion planning. This strategy allowed him to highlight numerous successes while minimizing failures. Significantly, even small successes boost morale, indicating the potential for success and the significance of continued effort. Giuliani recommends setting lower expectations, promising less, and communicating less in advance. It's better to announce results rather than intentions.

Personal Example

Every action taken by a manager and every demand made by others should begin with the leader setting an example. This pertains not only to diligence and adherence to proper work ethics but also to a readiness to roll up one's sleeves and perform tasks at a commendable level. Ultimately, leading by personal example stands as the most influential motivational factor. "No greater motivation exists for others than a leader who leads through a personal demonstration."

Learning, Planning, and Promotion

Giuliani underscores the significance of early and thorough personal learning, relying on meticulous planning and a systematic, measured approach to decision-making. The critical elements of this concept encompass:

  1. Preparation:

    1. Every task demands extensive initial preparation. Even an experienced leader or an individual with a successful track record should personally prepare and possess a deep understanding of the subject.

    2. The leader must physically inspect the relevant area and base their analysis on this firsthand observation.

    3. Initial preparation should also include anticipating potential issues and proactively preparing to address them.

  2. Planning and Advancing Objectives:

    1. Paying attention to even the smallest details is crucial, as neglecting minor aspects can undermine the core function. Every detail should be considered, and the use of charts can assist in organizing and comprehending information.

    2. Clearly define objectives.

    3. Regularly monitor, measure, and assess progress by identifying performance indicators; utilize numerical data to manage advancement.

    4. The manager's role encompasses providing guidance, setting expectations for progress, offering advice, and ensuring the necessary resources to achieve the established goals.

  3. Beyond Fluency: Strategic Thinking

    1. The manager should engage in an examination of overarching goals and the desired directions of progress and achievement.

    2. Perform a comprehensive analysis of available resources and determine the necessary actions to attain the objectives.

    3. Assess who is the most suitable to carry out specific tasks and delegate responsibilities accordingly.

    4. Maintain oversight and monitor progress with the same level of attention as current issues.

Managing Your Subordinates

Selecting the Right People:

Choosing the right individuals is a pivotal factor in achieving success, a principle strongly endorsed by Giuliani. He further elucidates this idea by recommending:

  1. They are opting for individuals who possess strengths in areas where managers may have weaknesses.

  2. Advocating for role dynamics that bring out the best in each participant.

  3. Emphasizing the evaluation of candidates based on their experience and track record while resisting the temptation to hire acquaintances.

  4. Highlighting the importance of recognizing that influential individuals are motivated by altruism (the desire to contribute) and personal benefit. Maintaining this balance is crucial for sustained progress.

In the end, a solid individual bolsters the team, but a cohesive team, in turn, strengthens each of its members.

Fostering Motivation:

Giuliani presents a range of motivational tools he believes in:

  1. Encouraging healthy competition.

  2. Cultivating creative tension among employees.

  3. Presenting challenges and assigning additional responsibilities to employees.

  4. Promoting loyalty within the team.

Instilling Work Principles in Subordinates:

Giuliani emphasizes the importance of instilling his principles in his subordinates and teaching them the same techniques. He expected and planted in his employees the principles of:

  1. Taking full responsibility without reservation.

  2. Preparing and being ready for both planned and unforeseen circumstances.

  3. Setting goals, collecting data, monitoring, measuring, evaluating, making decisions, and tracking progress.

  4. Personal example plays a pivotal role in imparting work principles to others.


Giuliani acknowledges that building employee loyalty is a gradual process. However, he underscores that loyalty is a two-way street. If a leader expects loyalty from their team, they must reciprocate by demonstrating dedication to their employees and fostering an enduring culture of respect, not just through occasional gestures. Critiquing and even disagreeing with subordinates is acceptable, but it must be done respectfully and supported constructively when interacting with others.

Effective Interactions with Others

Respect and Politeness:

Unsurprisingly, Giuliani consistently displays respect and politeness towards others, including his competitors. He underscores the importance of allowing non-advocates to express their opinions freely and encourages efforts to create an environment where diverse perspectives are highly valued.

Building Trust:

Giuliani advises working with trustworthy individuals while acknowledging that this may not always be within your control. He recommends clear and well-documented communication in straightforward language in situations where trust is lacking. To quickly resolve outstanding issues, he suggests minimizing contact and progressing efficiently.

Accountability and Integrity:

Giuliani advocates for maintaining integrity in professional relationships by severing ties with individuals who consistently fail to uphold their commitments, even if the cost is significant. He emphasizes the value of maintaining composure and humanity whenever possible.


Giuliani's portrayal undeniably exemplifies leadership. New York had the privilege of having such a leader, particularly during one of its most critical historical periods when his leadership was most needed.

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