Change Begins With Putting the Right People in the Right Positions

Are you choosing the right people for the right roles that will enable you to succeed?


Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, discusses the foundation that brings forth change: putting the right people in the right positions and enabling them to make a difference.

“A lot of your success... is [the result of] the people [you] choose,” says Rudy. “When we choose the wrong ones, and sometimes we do... boy, we get in a lot of trouble.”

Watch the interview between Rudy and Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, California, to hear the lesson Rudy learned early on in his mayorship that taught him the importance of choosing the right people for the right roles.

Aja: What was the most inspirational or the turning point in your mayorship in terms of causing you to shift the way you that you govern or the way that you led your organization?

Rudy: I think it was probably about eight or nine months into office. And a young girl, a young baby, Elisa Izquierdo, who was under the Child Protection Services protection was killed. We had had, going back to before me, we had a large number of these. I felt very bad that I had missed that. Meaning I had spent a year and a half thinking about being mayor and studying what the problems were. I had run before and lost and I said to myself, "We're just not serving our children correctly."

I always wish that I had started that earlier because maybe she wouldn't have died. The mistake that we had made, and we had made for many years but I didn't see it until then, was we had this big welfare agency. Remember, we had 1.1 million people on welfare so servicing 1.1 million people is a big agency. Inside that big welfare agency, we had the Child Protection Services.

Those two things don't belong together. Giving out welfare to people or finding them jobs is very different than protecting little children. And the child protection part of it was the tail not wagging the dog. It was like whenever they would try to save money, they'd save money on the child protection part, not on the welfare part. So I appointed one of my closest friends and my commissioner of investigation and one of the smartest people I know. I said, "I don't know the answer to this, but you've got to give me an answer to how we don't have this happen again."

The answer that they gave me was to take that agency out of the welfare agency. Make it independent. Go pick the best person you can find to run it. Take personal responsibility for it. I went and found a man that I had known for many years before. He's actually also a character in the movie, "Prince of the City." He had worked for a republican mayor and a democratic mayor, Mayor Lindsey and Mayor Koch. He had been an orphan as a young boy and had made a success of himself.

But he knew what it was like to live in an orphanage and to live in foster homes. He'd lived in 12 foster homes, but he had become a lawyer and made a success of himself. We used to have long talks when we were 25 and 26 and 27 and I knew his heart and I knew his capability. He was an enormously successful lawyer at that time, making a lot of money.

I had to talk his wife into it. And he took over the job and he built the New York City Child Protection Agency, which really became a great success because of him not because of me. But a lot of your success or mine as a mayor is the people we choose. When we choose the wrong ones, and sometimes we do, when we choose the wrong ones, boy, we get in a lot of trouble.

Aja: Absolutely.

Rudy Giuliani

Rudolph W. Giuliani is the former Mayor of New York City. After joining the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the Chief of the Narcotics Unit ...

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