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Leadership in the face of change and crisis

Recently I was fortunate enough to be at to be at the inaugural “In the Room” conference and hear a truly inspiring presentation from Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of NYC. My co-director Chris Munro and I were also lucky enough to get some face-to-face time with Rudy, joining him for dinner after day 1 of the conference.

Rudy had a lot of great insight to share, but what resonated with me most was his 6 principals of leadership – principals that align closely to many of my own views on what makes a good leader.

1. Have strong ideas – great leaders all have a strong vision of their own

Leaders use their minds, experience and instincts to determine where they’re going and then drive their team or business in that direction. There is no better leader than a captain of a ship. The primary thing a captain has to decide before anybody else on the ship can do anything is the destination. If the captain can’t decide on the destination, nobody else can contribute because they don’t know what they are doing. It’s the same in business, as business owners you need goals, objectives and direction, otherwise you are just wandering.

2. Be an optimist, be a problem solver – people won’t follow negative thinkers

People gravitate towards the person that offers hope of a solution to the problems around us. Train yourself to be a problem solver, rather than someone who focuses on the question or dilemma at hand. Don’t be the person that just absorbs and repeats problems, if you’re going to raise a problem make sure you have also thought of a suggested solution. The first solution you think up might not always be right, in fact it might be crazy, but it will spur discussion and a new way of thinking – the sense of optimism and the knowledge that obstacles can be overcome will help you come up with the best solutions.

3. Have courage and take risks – great leaders aren’t conservative

Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the acknowledgement that there are risks in everything you do and being prepared to face these risks head on. Learn to use your fears in creative ways. What defines courage is what you do with fear, not whether you have it. If you let fear immobilise you, then you are not going to accomplish anything. But if you let fear motivate you to work harder to reduce the risk, then you will become a courageous person.

4. Relentlessly prepare – plan ahead, know the path, study the contingencies

Risks can be faced if you are prepared for them. Good leaders ensure that they are extremely well prepared and examine potential scenarios or risks. Inevitably something will eventually come up that you haven’t thought of before, but if you have relentlessly prepared you will find that whatever crops up is just a variation of something you have previously prepared for.

5. Work with a team – no one is the best at everything

The key to a great organisation is balance. So build your team with balance in mind. If you are good in specific areas and weak in others; find people that can fill the gaps and defer to their knowledge.

6. Communicate. The other principals don’t matter if you cannot communicate it!

Make sure everyone knows where you’re going, why you’re going there and how you’re going to get there. Leaders must be able to take their goals and convert them into understandable steps that people can work with to achieve your goals. Achievements must be measured, so if you are setting long-term goals, break them down into a set of shorter achievements that can be measured along the way. Metrics are key to measuring performance.

Lastly – if you really want to lead you need to love people, you need to care about them and show compassion. It’s more important that you are there for the hard times, when things go wrong than the happy times. If you don’t love people….you should do something else!

Rudy was a wonderful speaker for this conference on Leadership, Innovation and Risk – something his extensive career has been filled with.