I was checking in with a friend of almost 20 years who lives south of the city of Houston. When hurricanes come to Houston, they usually hit him first. So, we were checking on each other. That’s what friends do.
He also mentioned during our conversation that I was probably developing several leadership articles from the events and activities over the last 6 days. He was right. I wrote one before the rain even began to fall. A friend provided a symbiotic article on Monday. And here we go on Thursday night with some of my thoughts so far on leadership lessons from Hurricane Harvey.
What does real leadership look like in a crisis?
I have a friend. His name is David. Actually, he is really an acquaintance. In fact, I haven’t ever actually met him in person. Although I would certainly like to. I would like to shake his hand and tell him what an amazing leader he is. For I have been following his exploits on Facebook for the past 6 days.
Houston is not your typical city. We are deeply independent and we believe in the value of self-reliance and responsibility. So, while many in similar circumstances would sit and wait for the police, fire, or other government entity to come and rescue those in need, folks like David dive in (literally!) and rescue those whose lives are in danger.
Watching David over the last 6 days has shown me a few things about leadership in new and fresh ways. Here are some things that I have watched over the time that Hurricane Harvey was wreaking havoc on Houston.
Leaders don’t wait to be called
The rain was still falling. In fact, we were still in the worst of the storm and David, a former special operations combat veteran, left the comfort of his own home and grabbed his gear and waded out into the water and then swam to trapped folks and began to rescue them.
No one called David. At least not externally. He was called by an inner voice that told him to get up, go out, and use his unique skills for the sake of his fellow Houstonians. Day after day he would perform heroic acts and then report back to his wife via Facebook about his rescues and recount not the heroics, but the humor and craziness that he experienced throughout the day.
No one called him. He just went.
Leaders know how to mobilize others
But David didn’t just go it alone. Although he is more than capable on his own. He mobilized other veterans and fellow entrepreneurs to join with him to put their military training to use in a civilian world that was in crisis. He leveraged the power of social media to mobilize other veterans that he served with or knew through his CrossFit clientele.
And before you knew it, folks were coming together and his wife began to help with the logistics regarding boats, trucks, and supplies that were needed in his relief efforts. She worked the social network to raise gas and diesel money for the boat and truck owners and she coordinated among the now growing team.
One became many.
Leaders will take a risk when the cause is right
Did you catch how I described David previously? David is an entrepreneur. He is a small business owner. He and his wife own a CrossFit box in Houston. He had a lot to lose by getting involved. What if he was injured? (Actually, he was and suffered injuries to both feet in one of the rescues.) What if he drowned or was electrocuted by downed power lines?
Remember, he is a combat veteran. So, putting his life on the line is not a foreign concept to him. But, he is a civilian now. He has a wife and two incredible kids. He owns a business that needs him alive and vibrantly healthy in order to continue to thrive and grow.
He took a huge personal risk.
What can we learn from this week?
The list of things that we can learn from the weeklong Hurricane Harvey visit is long. And I have only scratched the surface. I am sure that there will be more thoughts that will make their way into leadership articles int he coming weeks and months.
But, one of the things that I have learned is that life is fragile and that weather events such as Hurricane Harvey are as unpredictable as they unavoidable. Harvey went from a tropical depression to a category 4 hurricane in 36 hours. And despite weather forecasters saying all of this was possible, no one thought it would come true to the extent that it did. And once it hit, people like David sprang into action and led in a time of crisis and saved many lives.
These are the kinds of leaders that inspire me. I hope his actions inspire you to become a better leader. A leader who doesn’t wait to be called, can mobilize others and take risks when necessary.
Thank you, David.