Neil G. Giuliano is an American gay rights activist. He was the former four-term Republican mayor (1994-2004) of Tempe, Arizona. He chaired the commission in charge of hosting the third debate of the 2004 United States presidential elections. He has served as President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) since September 1, 2005.
Question: What skills do you need to lead GLAAD?
Neil Giuliano: They're not very different from the skills you have to have to be a mayor of a city, in some ways. You have to have a vision and understand where you think the organization or the community needs to go. You need to be able to articulate that vision very well. You need to not get out of front of people but you need to bring other people along. That's my, the way that I approach, have approached any kind of leadership position I've ever been in, that I may know where I think we need to go but I'm going nowhere if I'm not bringing other people with me. So it's a way of sort of really helping people create what it is then we need them to support. And that's the way that I approach it.
Question: Who inspires your leadership?
Neil Giuliano: What's interesting is I don't look to necessarily the people who are in a big position or in- at the top of the ladder, so to speak. I look for people of influence and I look for whoever has influence in a particular situation really is the person or the group of people who are the leaders. Leadership isn't about holding an office or holding a job, it's about having influence over other people and then causing those other people to move towards doing something that makes things better; and that's the way I've always approached leadership. It's not about me in a particular office or a particular job, but it's about the influence I can have on other people for us all to accomplish something.
Question: What mistakes have you made in your time leading GLAAD?
Neil Giuliano: Oh. In my time at GLAAD? Well I've only been here about 2½ years so I don't know if I'm made a big enough, really, really big mistake yet. But certainly as a leader in public life, yes of course. I supported some big projects that ended up going nowhere, spent a lot of political capital on them. And then even deciding when I was the openly gay mayor in Tempe and I publicly spoke out against funding the Boy Scouts in my community through the city's United Way Campaign and questioned whether the city should be supporting the United Way Campaign that then was funding an organization that discriminates. Well that was pretty stupid of me because it led to a recall election, within my city. Now we won the recall election with 70% of the vote almost, but it cost my friends a lot of money and it was a full year of having to deal with the campaign of the recall election-- that was from 2000 to 2001. And what the folks who were driving the recall election were-- they knew they were never going to win the election, I think, but what they were really trying to do was cripple my ability to govern. They really tried to limit my ability in all sorts of things by having a recall election, having to deal with that. It ended up only making me stronger in the long run, but when I think back it would've been something nice to avoid.
Question: What’s one of the best decisions you’ve made as leader?
Neil Giuliano: I think one of the best decisions I probably ever made was to be very public about the need for a stronger public transportation system within the Greater Metropolitan Phoenix area and help lead the effort, way back in 1996, for a half cent sales tax, for a bus system, and for some of that money to go for light rail planning and construction, to now where in 2008, here it is 12 years later, the bus system's been implemented, Light Rail will actually open in the fall in the greater Phoenix area, which I think will be a very good thing; it's one of the fastest growing regional areas in the country. So I think my involvement with public transportation is clearly something that I think-- again spent a lot of political capital on but was something that'll be very long-lasting and good for the valley.
Question: Does faith inform your worldview?
Neil Giuliano: It does, in a spiritual sense. I was raised Roman Catholic, and while I wouldn’t call myself a practicing Roman Catholic anymore, I still have a great spiritual sense and great- my own personal religious beliefs. So yes, I would say so.