As I sit here in the Houston area surrounded by catastrophe, I can’t help but think about these events through the lens of leadership lessons. Eventually, the experts will publish facts on the human toll and financial cost of this natural disaster. Millions of people are impacted. Thousands are now homeless. The fourth largest city in the US will be shutdown for at least a week.
Like many disasters all over the world, the real story is how the community has rallied. Ordinary people are literally risking their lives to help total strangers. Whether taking a fishing boat through flooded neighborhoods to rescue those in danger, or opening homes for those that are without shelter, or travelling through a flooded street to help keep a grocery store or restaurant open, or just coordinating the thousands of pleas for help on social media, it seems that everyone has found a way to contribute.
So what leadership lessons from this event can we learn?
1. First, as bad as things may seems,there are many that have it far worse. Count your blessings.
2. Focus on the big issues. What seemed a big problem yesterday likely won’t be significant in weeks or months. At the end of the year, what will really matter? Focus on that.
3. Put your energy into what you can do. Blame, complaining, and rumor are destructive and don’t help. What do you have control over? That deserves your attention.
4. Processes, and formal governance provide a framework for normal, repetitive events, but you need to recognize when it’s appropriate to go off script. Not every circumstance can be handled through normal procedure.
5. Everyone can contribute. Titles and authority typically aren’t as significant as we pretend. The best help is often from the people who just desire to help.