Today the former mayor of New York and republican presidential runner for 2008 Rudolph Guiliani came to Mountain View in the Silicon Valley for a lunch with the members of the technology think tank Churchill Club. The former mayor became known to a larger audience – even outside the US – through his work as US Attorney, where he had an impressive account of prosecution against mafia, the reduction of crime as mayor in New York City and not least his leadership during the tragic events of September 11, 2001 where terrorists killed 2,751 people in the hijacking of passenger planes and the collapse of both towers of the World Trade Center.
With the ongoing war on terror, the change of the global climate and the implications for everybody on us in a global work environment, it was interesting (also for a European like me) to listen to Mr. Giuliani on his views and visions, especially in connection with the Silicon Valley and the very work we do, where ever we live.
Having been leader in crisis and authored a book about Leadership and running for the office of the US president, Giuliani began his discussion with his thoughts and theories about leadership. He named the former British prime minister Winston Churchill and the former American president Ronald Reagan as lighthouses for his own leadership. He mentioned that a leader is a visionary who knows how to put the processes in place to get things done. That’s something that is important for any person in the technology industry, as inventions are not made successful by the inventor, but by the help of people who can facilitate innovation and set the right structures and processes in place, so that inventors can do what they can do best: invent.
Giuliani also mentioned that one way to go through crisis and difficulties is not to loose the humor (which he quoted from Winston Churchill) and that you can learn leadership from leaders that you work with. The challenges (for the US and many other countries) is on the one hand to ensure the national security, but on the other hand not to close the borders and lock out talent, communication and business.
After some comments and his point of view about the Iraq-war and other global and national political topics, the questions became more technology-oriented. Giuliani stated that the free world can win the war on terror through this very technology that e.g. the Silicon Valley created and creates. He mentioned as examples countries and regions that are “plugged-in” in this technology like in Europe, India and China, who compete and collaborate through the very internet and technologies in a peaceful way to the benefit of all nations. While the countries where terrorism is bred like Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran are not “plugged-in”. Being plugged-in means that you have to adapt morals and social norms. An example he mentioned as noteworthy is Dubai, which has no oil, but is a role model for other countries of how to change and become a peaceful player.
Green tech ventures
Audience members asked Giuliani for his opinion about the green technology ventures that are currently getting founded and who get a lot of push in the Silicon Valley. He believes very strongly in energy independence and diversity. What is missing today in his opinion is the impedus and the focus from the government. As example he pointed to the race to space in the 1950s/60s, where over several decades multiple US presidents gave the vision and focused the nation on exploring the space, with finally having the first man land on the moon in 1969.
All this needs a lot of help from the US government. He even went so far and stated energy independence and diversity as a question of (US) national security.
In another question about former US vice president Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, that draws a dramatic picture of the state of the global climate and the drastic changes that are threatening the way of life as we know it (and I highly recommend that documentary), he acknowledges that we cannot ignore these changes anymore. But what he was missing from this documentary were solutions to this problem.
In a last question about his opinion about the media revolution, which brings more importance to bloggers, he simply stated that whatever brings free speech is a good thing and since his times as mayor of New York, he is very familiar with that “phenomena”. Which brings me to my conclusion.
Whatever political viewpoint you have, after hearing the democratic presidential runner Barack Obama on TV and now the republican Rudolph Giuliani, it is a good choice to work in the technology industry. Whoever the next US president will be, the candidates seem to understand the increasing importance of technology industries and see the need to have the government back and encourage this industry. Only this way we all can face and solve the threats of our time, like terror, poverty and climate change, which affects all of us, independent of where we live.
- Gore, Al: An Inconvenient Truth
- Friedman, Thomas L.: The World is Flat – A Short History of the 21st Century; Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2006