[January 2, 2022] I’ve always been fond of saying that working under a bad leader is an excellent way of learning what not to do. Conversely, we can learn from the best leaders as well. Successful leaders share similar policies and leadership traits, while failed leaders follow their own path.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” –Anna Karenina (1878) by Leo Tolstoy
Like many cities, New York City has had both successful and failed mayors. The city’s fortunes and risen and fallen with them. Among the best mayors recently were Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg; each “took office in times of crises and turned New York’s fortunes around.”1 None of them were perfect, but each left the Big Apple better off.
And then there were New York City’s failed mayors, Abraham Beame, David Dinkins, and Bill De Blasio. They all lacked the “right stuff” to master the significant challenges of a large city. As a result, the city was worse off when they left.
Those who have lived in the city for the past 50 years understand this idea in spades. Several newspapers called Mayor de Blasio “Mayor Putz,” also known as the Worst Mayor Ever. De Blasio was the most failed mayor in his own way. He took a thriving city and created a spectacular downturn.
De Blasio was corrupt, granted favors for donors and unions, was seriously incompetent, and glaringly lazy (working half-days) as the police chauffeured him to his favorite gym in Brooklyn. Tellingly, he could not make tough decisions when crucial moments passed. Insiders say he considered the nitty-gritty details of leadership to be beneath him.
His primary motivation was to find his roots in a far-leftist ideology used to bludgeon his political opponents while he honeymooned in Cuba. Of course, de Blasio loved the Castro brothers and spent much of his mayorship redistributing other people’s money.
“Whether it was a tragic event like a police shooting or major accident where a mayor should appear to show a steady hands-on leadership, he mostly wasn’t there. He was a no-show at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. He didn’t stroll neighborhood streets and talk to the people nor hold town hall-style meetings. … when he did appear, he was often late, evidence of a lack of respect for the job and the public itself.”1
A failed de Blasio mayorship resulted in surging crime, hatred and disrespect for the police, homeless encampments and roving maniacs, filthy streets, failing schools, and large sums of money wasted on crazy ideas.
Failure is not just an option for some leaders; it’s a feature.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).