Thursday Thoughts: Leaders Have Edge

“When you confront a problem, you begin to solve it.”                                                                                          -Rudolph Giuliani

Sometimes we are called upon to lead in an unforeseen circumstance. We are judged by how quickly we react to something and how effective that reaction was in helping the situation.

That reaction often is what distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the crowd. It’s what gives great leaders edge. Leaders with edge are competitive and know the value of speed. They are confident they know when to go or stop. They don’t get paralyzed by the paradox.

Rudolph Giuliani is a political leader who’s shown he has a great deal of edge. While he was big on being prepared, he never could’ve known what would happen on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the tragic terrorist attacks on New York City, or how he would react to it. Just months from retirement as the city’s mayor, he could’ve hunkered down that day, issuing commands from an undisclosed location.

Instead, he showed his true edge. He was everywhere at once helping, guiding, leading and most of the time he was at Ground Zero where the attacks occurred. Even his harshest critics applauded him that day. Of course, Giuliani could not have known exactly what would happen that day, but he had prepared himself all along for leadership and that’s what guided his actions.

Giuliani urges others to “prepare relentlessly.” He said he learned early on never to “assume a damn thing” and he followed his own advice.

Before being elected mayor of New York, Giuliani was concerned that he would come to the job not fully prepared. So he put together a tutorial on being mayor that included a series of seminars designed to help educate him on those aspects of the mayor’s job he did not know as well.

Those sessions, he later wrote, not only provided the knowledge he needed, but also afforded him the chance to think through how he would perform in various situations. He argued that leaders should take all the time they have to make the best decisions, but that they should start weighing alternatives now, not days from now!

Giuliani may have been what Peter Drucker would call a “natural,” but he took nothing for granted and left very little to chance. He relentlessly prepared for leadership and held himself accountable to tough standards. All these factors converged to benefit New York and the nation on the one day that mattered most.  

Giuliani’s edge was in preparing to lead no matter the situation, reacting quickly and not standing paralyzed by the tragedy at hand.