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Book Review: Leadership, Rudolph Giuliani

Leadership, by Rudolph Giuliani

I have over 30 books on leadership on my shelf: deep and shallow, scholarly and populist, straight and quirky. Bt there is one I enjoyed reading and, as a project manager, got more out of than any other: Leadership, by Rudolph Giuliani.

Rudolph Giuliani

Guiliani, for those who weren’t around at the time, or have forgotten, was the Mayor of New York at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, in 2011. So a part of his book covers the way he dealt with the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack. I hope that will never be directly relevant to you.

Applicability to Project Management

But many of Giuliani’s thoughts about leadership are very relevant to a project manager. And his collaboration with seasoned journalist Ken Kurson makes this an engaging book that is easy to read and filled with memorable passages. The result, for me, was three pages of notes, reminding me of the most useful tips.

Some Favourite Ideas

I have selected a few examples to share with you:

1. Giuliani emphasises the importance of first hand knowledge of what is going on. Go to the scene of the incident and meet the people involved. It gives you the clearest possible understanding of what is happening, and your presence is what people most want from their leader.

2. In crisis mode, his top three priorities were: communication, care for the injured, and what will happen next? These are a strong list for any project crisis (where, for injured, I hope you will usually substitute ‘make things safe/stable). Indeed, I could argue that even a well-run project can be thought of as a continual low-level crisis, and these three priorities hold.

3. Promise only when you are positive. How many project managers base their commitments on hope? And how many sponsors? Your job is to turn hope into a plan, and plans into certainty. Be very clear what you can promise, how much confidence you can have in a plan, and when you can offer no more that an aspiration. ‘Proof first, fanfare second’ he says.

4. Two elements speak clearly to me about tough times on your project. First is what Giuliani refers to as ‘the optimism of leadership’. It is your job to instil confidence, because, once a leader gives up hope, so will everyone else. He also emphasises the importance of consistency in your behaviour, demeanour, and just in being around when people need you.

5. I’ll end with a number of attitudinal injunctions and personal behaviours he recommends: Prepare relentlessly, attend to the details, surround yourself with great people, assume nothing, be a demanding boss and a nurturing manager, and take responsibility for what happens on your watch.

The ‘so what?’

Leadership is a great book. It is pacy, with some great set-piece moments, and is full of excellent take-away tips.

You buy Leadership from Amazon…

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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