Born Leaders, Built Leaders: Rudy Giuliani & Transformative Leadership

March 7, 2014

If the term “natural born leader” ever applied to anyone, it would be Rudy Giuliani — the distinguished former mayor of New York City and the keynote speaker at Harvey Nash’s 4th Annual Leadership Lecture. Giuliani is a famously bold political leader. 

Over 200 C-level executives from across New York City joined Harvey Nash in the very early hours of this past Tuesday morning to hear him speak.  While his achievements, reputation and experience bought us all together, it was his genuine and magnetic presence that kept us glued to our seats, determined to catch every word.

As he commanded the room with easy charm, he told his own story and reminded us all of how much hard work goes into successful, transformative leadership. “Relentless preparation,” he explained was one of the keys to his success and a critical factor in effective leadership. He shared how skillful leadership begins with a big, aspiring vision, as he did with his vision of solving soaring crime problems across New York City. But to Giuliani that vision was worth very little without a well constructed plan, devised of strategic building blocks.

He explained to the audience how the mayoral plans he devised to tackle crime and restore NYC gems –such as Times Square — were sweeping in vision but also designed to be broken into building blocks or “workable nuggets.” The power of these “workable nuggets” is that that they give a team or organization shorter term goals to achieve on the path to a worthwhile, ambitious goal.

As he shared the importance of both a bold, broad vision and careful, tactic-rich plan for accomplishing it, I realized how the leadership approach he described was very far from lofty. It’s a “get on the ground, get your hands dirty, get in the action” kind of leadership. It’s leadership that’s built on the ground and in the trenches of the daily grind. It’s how so many in New York and around the world knew Giuliani as the mayor who cleaned up New York City. And it’s how someone with the courage and foresight of a “natural born leader” can be so utterly down to earth.

At the end of his speech, Giuliani reminded the audience that a transformative leader is someone who is capable of envisioning big, worthy goals and able to teach people how to achieve them. In other words, great transformations are the result of the smaller, vital transformations you help others to achieve. It was an inspiring message and a reminder to a room full of rapt CEOs, CIOs, COOs, Presidents and VPs that great leaders — born or built — are also great doers. 

LL photo 2.JPGMr. Giuliani gives keynote address 


LL photo 1.JPGMr. Giuliani leading breakout discussions


LL photo 3.JPG

Me and “Rudy the Rock”