Rudy Giuliani is not only an American hero, but one who can deliver a message that rings true to credit unions. As the keynote speaker, the former mayor of New York City and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year came across as someone who could relate to virtually every person in the audience at the recent CUNA Symposium in Orlando. Moving to and fro across the stage, he described the tragedy of 9/11 from which he emerged as one of the country’s most admired leaders. From his on-the-scene vantage point, he gave a moving account of what leadership means to him. Giuliani explained why even events as horrific as those of 9/11 could not break the American spirit. They certainly didn’t break his. What is his secret? Taking a page from his just released new book, “Leadership,” he wove his message around his personal six principles of leadership, which he said had application to 9/11, before and after. Interestingly, he never once mentioned credit unions during his presentation, that is, until he invited the audience to “ask me anything you want.” Yet, Giuliani delivered a great credit union speech. Without much effort, his six well articulated leadership principles could easily be applied to credit unions. His first principle is “Beliefs.” Mr. Mayor explained it this way: “Being an American is people being tied together by beliefs, not by race, religion, or nationality. Americans have beliefs to fall back on,” said Giuliani. To be a leader, you must have strong beliefs. The CU connection is obvious. It is a known fact that credit union leaders have strong beliefs in credit unions. They believe in the philosophical difference, basic structure, and purpose of credit unions. And they practice it, promote it, live by it, and espouse it. Enemies of credit unions refuse to understand these strong beliefs. Next Giuliani talked about the leadership principle of courage when facing danger. As expected, he gave many up close and personal examples from his own 9/11 experiences. He also cited those of all the brave survivors and rescue workers around him at Ground Zero. “Courage is not the absence of fear,” said Giuliani. “The absence of fear is insanity. Leaders know how to manage their fear to enable them to do what they have to do.” Although not nearly at the same level of intensity, credit union leaders also possess courage when facing danger. That courage manifests itself when a credit union is subjected to an entire list of natural tragedies from fires and floods, to earthquakes and hurricanes. Who can forget Hurricane Andrew which brought out the worst in nature and the best among credit unions that rushed in to help their devastated colleagues? There are many such examples. Also on Giuliani’s leadership traits list is the need for a leader to be an optimist. “Being an optimist is much more fun than being a pessimist,” joked the Mayor of the World as he is frequently called. According to Giuliani, some of the world’s greatest leaders, like Winston Churchill, were clinically depressed. Yet, they forced themselves to be optimistic when those around them were ready to throw in the towel. It was all but impossible to have even a spark of optimism in New York City in September, 2001, but Giuliani somehow managed to pull it off as the entire world watched in awe. If there is one thing that credit union leaders have in common, it is optimism. Lawsuits, attacks by lobbyists, Supreme Court decisions, straight jacket regulations, emerging competitive threats, an economy tanking, and more have all sent credit unions reeling. With unbridled optimism, they not only bounced back, but surged ahead to become even stronger and more beneficial to their members. And then there is something called preparation. “Who practices more between matches than famed pro golfer Tiger Woods?” Giuliani asked. “No one,” he said answering his own question. Leaders expect the unexpected. According to Giuliani the events of 9/11 would have been even worse if NYC rescue teams hadn’t been so well trained and well-equipped in anticipation of a catastrophe. Credit union leaders also insist on credit unions being prepared. Contingency plans, reserves, sponsor downsizing or failures, succession plans, risk management initiatives, etc. The preparedness list is long and getting longer. Giuliani’s final two traits, good leaders and good communications make sense for just about everyone. Here’s how His Honor put it: concentrate on areas where you need help. Build a team to help with your weaknesses. Good leaders are always surrounded by great people. Let people know what you think. Tell the truth. Communicate by example. According to Giuliani, these six traits of leadership can work for everyone. But do they? Can achieving good leadership be as simple as adhering to only six principles of leadership? To delve further into the gospel by Rudy and to help me answer my own question, I just bought Giuliani’s new book. Stay tuned. Finally, the eight questions that surfaced during the wide-open Q&A session that followed the formal speech ranged from his views on Iraq (support the President) and his beloved NY Yankees (maybe next year Rudy), to will he run for president (not in 2004, but.) and how can another 9/11 be prevented (see number four)? Rudy Giuliani hit a home run on the final question. He was asked his views on cooperatives and credit unions. Without hesitation he said, “I think they are great!” He went on to explain why from his personal and career frame of reference. As Giuliani departed to a standing ovation, he left the impression that he understood credit union “beliefs,” that he knew CUs needed to have “courage” in face of unrelenting bank attacks, that CUs oozed “optimism”, were “prepared” for a bright future, spawned good “leaders,” and were working diligently to “communicate” more effectively. Now there’s a man who practices what he preaches. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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