Be prepared. Be optimistic. Have courage. Have a sense of humor. Love people.

These are the five necessary ingredients of a leader, according to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who passed along his words of wisdom at the 2004 Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) Convention.

Giuliani, the featured speaker at the opening general session, captivated the audience as he provided a glimpse of his efforts to cope with the tragedy of the terrorist attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We're going to live through this," he promised, referring to the threats of terrorism to the United States. "We're going to live through this crisis for some time. So it is really important to emphasize some of the things that you need to get through a crisis... People have to be prepared, because none of us ever get through life without a crisis."

Rudy Giuliani

It's Better To Know

Giuliani spoke of his own personal turmoil. "When we think of a crisis, we think of a government or a business or an industry or a society," he said. "We never think of ourselves. But maybe the best thing that prepared me for Sept. 11, at least on a personal basis, was having gone through cancer a little over a year before."

His father died of prostate cancer "so it shook me up," he said, when his doctor called him with the diagnosis.

"I was pretty shocked," said Giuliani. "I had to deal with my own mortality for the first time in a very realistic way. ... I had to figure what I was going to do about it.

"As I started to deal with it, two things happened. First, I realized that I was a very, very lucky man. I could have had this feeling, when I first found out, of how unfortunate I was, how dangerous things looked for me. Here I was, real healthy, real strong. Everything was great. Everything was terrific. And now I found out I had cancer, a life-threatening disease."

Giuliani said he came to realize that "my life was actually more in danger the day before I found out and the day before that and the day before that. The first day I found out was the day that I could do something about it."

He looks at the present environment in the same light.

"I kind of look at terrorism the same way," he said. "Our real dangers were before we realized how much risk we were in for 30 years, really. Then we had the horrible attacks take place that took lives. Now we are facing reality. Same is true personally.

"When you face reality, you are always safer than when you kind of hide, like people who won't go for tests for cancer or for heart disease because they are going to be afraid to find out about it. Well, you want to find out about it. You have a great gift when you find out about it. The people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, did not get a warning like that. They didn't have a chance to have a test."

Keep Your Sunny Side Up

Giuliani said he believes in being an optimist. "What if I would have come out in the beginning and I stood here and I said, ‘Things are bad. Things are very bad. They are only going to get worse. And there is no hope. Now, follow me.'"

The remark drew laughter.

"People follow hope," he quickly added. "They follow optimism. They follow someone who dreams. People are drawn by that. You have to enjoy life. Even if we may be going through the worst of times, you have to enjoy life."

Giuliani said he learned a lot from a mother who lost her son, a New York firefighter. He was in-formed that within a 10-month period, this woman had lost her father, her husband, and now her only son. At her son's funeral, the mother was asked by her daughter if she should postpone her wedding, which was scheduled to be held in two weeks.

"I remember she had the most optimism and strength," recalled Giuliani. "I couldn't believe it. She said to me, ‘Life gives you very terrible things that you have to go through. Nobody gets through life without a tragedy, without setbacks, without a crisis. It doesn't matter how rich you are or how poor you are. It happens.'

"But she said life also brings you some very beautiful things, some wonderful things. If you let the horrible things that happen to you stop you from enjoying the beautiful things, you can never appreciate life.

"Those words helped me often during Sept. 11," he said. "To me, optimism is enormously important. You have to force yourself to look at the world in an optimistic way. This does not mean being unrealistic. It means optimistically looking for solutions to problems."

Courage, Laughter, Love

Giuliani said he admires firefighters, police officers, and soldiers because "they do something really extraordinary for which we should step back and honor. They put their lives at risk to protect everybody, every day."

This is where courage comes into play, he said.

"Courage is misunderstood by a lot of people. Courage is seeing the danger, but then overcoming it to do the thing you have to do," he said. "So if you are afraid, don't ever think you do not have courage."

Looking at today's world, he added, "We will get through this if we remind ourselves what courage is, which is appropriate fear and then overcoming it to do what you have to do. It's needed in all leaders."

Another leadership quality is having a sense of humor, he said.

"If you don't have a sense of humor, it's really hard to get through life. You have to be able to look at life and keep extracting from it ... good things ... happy things. It's your obligation to do this."

Giuliani also encouraged attendees to "find good people to help you."

"If you think you are going to get through a crisis without relying on other people and not using them correctly, and not have them use you, then you are going to fail," he said. "If you think you can get through life without people, then you are going to be unhappy because you are going to need them in the most important time."

He said he admired former president Ronald Reagan because he "held onto his people."

"He was loyal to his people. Even when a few were questioned in public circles, he was there for them," said Giuliani. "He created a tremendous support for himself. Just remember, loyalty cements human beings."

In conclusion, he said, "If you want to be an effective leader, you have to look at it from that point of view. You have to do it because you love people. You have to care about them. It has to go deeper than taking advantage of the things they do right. It involves being with them when things go wrong and being supportive of them when things go wrong."

Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

Publication date: 05/03/2004