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Lessons in crisis management

Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani: "I would have to say to myself, 'You've got to remain calm, you've got to stay focused.'"
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(CNN) -- Amid the death and destruction of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, one man in particular emerged from the horror with his status bolstered.

As New York mayor, Rudi Giuliani had spent eight years rebuilding the city's reputation and pride during two combative and frequently controversial terms.

By 2001, however, with the end of his mayoral career in sight, many New Yorkers were tiring of Giuliani's tough talk and aggressive style.

All of that changed on September 11 as Brooklyn-born Giuliani became the indomitable face of his wounded, grieving community.

In a city and a world that seemed to be heading into dangerous, uncharted territory, he remained a steady presence, finding poignant words for the media, comforting the families of the dead and missing, and overseeing the security and rescue operations.

At the end of the year he was named Time's "Person of the Year," and described by the magazine as "the greatest mayor in New York's history."

"My father, when I was very young, used to say to me, 'If you are ever in an emergency, if you are ever in a fire and everybody gets very excited, very emotional, then you become the calmest person in the room'," says Giuliani, recalling the experience.

"Make yourself calmer than you feel, force yourself to pretend you're calm and you'll be able to figure out how to get out of there if you remain calm. So I kept reminding myself of that. I was in charge, I was the person they were looking to and if I lost it they all would. I would have to say to myself, 'You've got to remain calm, you've got to stay focused.'"

But while in public Giuliani was improvising his way through the crisis, in private he was turning to history for inspiration and lessons in leadership.

"Winston Churchill was a great source of strength and influence for me going through September 11," he recalls.

"That night I got out his biography and I read it to try to see how he get through the Battle of Britain. Maybe there were some lessons that I could apply to how New York was going to get through this terrible battle that was thrust on us."

"The best way, at least for me in advising young people or people on how to be a great leader, is you've got to find people that you can model yourself on. If you are fortunate enough to work for some people that you think are really effective in their profession or their field, or by reading biographies and histories of people who have been successful and borrowing traits from them."

While Giuliani's name will long be associated with the events that overshadowed the final months of his term as mayor, he also takes pride from more than a decade of service, in which his pioneering "zero tolerance" approach cut crime by two-thirds and large areas of New York were redeveloped and rehabilitated.

Prior to becoming mayor, Giuliani was a city attorney with a reputation as one of the toughest prosecutors in the country, taking on the Mafia, crooked politicians and Wall Street inside traders.

"You have to have a set of beliefs and you have to spend a period of time deciding what your principles are and what you are trying to achieve," he says.

"If you don't then you just get buffeted back and forth with public opinion. When I became mayor of New York City I had a group of objectives. I wrote them down in a book and then every day I would judge what we were doing based on whether we were reaching those objectives, and I would communicate those objectives to the people who work with me.

"Sometimes when you see someone that has been a truly great leader -- whether it's in business, a great military leader or a great political leader -- you think that it's all intuitive. They must have great natural talent, but the reality is that most often when you analyze that you'll find that those are things they developed over a period of time."

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