#LeadershipStrong in 2018

Some Incredible Leadership Observations from Hurricane Harvey in 2017

For any who live in or around Houston, TX and the south Texas region, you will be aware that #HoustonStrong became the hashtag that dominated social media in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It came to represent the strength and resilience of folks of the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Texans are made of the same stuff that legends are made of. And Houstonians often feel that they are the caretakers of those legends. And there were some new legends that were created throughout the days of rain and the many days of rescue and recovery that followed.

For a few weeks that started in mid-August of this past year and lasted until the National Weather Service downgraded the hurricane on September 3, 2017, I had a front row seat for some inspiring leadership. Not that I was only an observer. Not at all. But, I watched some folks step up and lead in ways that you may not otherwise see without such a huge humanitarian crisis or catastrophic weather event that unleashes trillions and trillions of gallons of water on your city.

To put this storm in perspective you need to consider just a few numbers. In just a four-day period, many areas in and around Houston received more than 40 inches of rain as the storm system slowly meandered over our city and over southeastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding. The highest recorded accumulation of 60.58 inches was not far from where my son, his wife, and their young son live. Hurricane Harvey was the wettest tropical storm on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.

It is against that backdrop that leadership took center stage. #HoustonStrong gave us #LeadershipStrong. And leadership talent was on display for all to see if you were looking for it. I was looking for it and I was not disappointed.

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Don’t Wait To Be Called; Mobilize Others; Take Risks

Three Characteristics of How Leaders Respond in a Crisis

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.

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Four Characteristics of Good Crisis Leaders

Four Characteristics of Crisis Leaders - 1

Thirteen years ago today, on September 11, 2001, we witnessed both the destructive power of evil leadership and the resilient power of heroic leadership.   We saw heroic leadership in the first responders and private citizens who ran toward the burning towers, cornfield and the Pentagon.  But among those heroes, one figure stands tall as an example of effective leadership during the crisis as it unfolded and in the days following.  That person is former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.   Regardless of your current political leanings, his confident leadership during the 9/11 tragedies is something that you and I and leaders from all walks of life can learn from.

Rudy GiulianiGiuliani writes the following in his book, Leadership, published in 2002, “It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge.”

Giuliani goes on to write in his book that during these times of crisis, good leaders must do certain things to be effective during those trying times.   He writes that good leaders in crisis situations must be highly visible, they must be composed, they must be vocal, and they must be resilient.

Good Leaders are Visible in a Crisis — Giuliani writes, “I made it my policy to see every crisis so I could evaluate it firsthand.”

During a crisis, leaders must be out front rather than running and hiding. They must go to the disaster and stand front and center, to assess the situation as well as show their concern, while also demonstrating confidence that the group will persevere.  Rather than hide from the chaos and confusion, be sure to step in to sort things out and find a solution.

Four Characteristics of Crisis Leaders - 3Again, political preferences aside, the importance of being visible during a crisis can also be learned from George W. Bush’s presidency. Like Giuliani, Americans rallied around President Bush when he went to Ground Zero and grabbed a bullhorn amid the rubble to reassure the nation.  Contrast that with President Bush’s lack of a timely response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush was noticeably absent during the first days of the crisis and his poll numbers took a big hit.

What is the leadership lesson? Step up during a crisis to survey the scene and be there for your people.

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The Pot Bowl?

details of my garden
MendezEnrique / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I want to make clear this viewpoint is from a leadership perspective and NOT a political view. It has plenty to do with the decline in leadership of core moral values that has made America a great country, and Colorado and Washington great states respectively. I have been following this issue with a keen interest for some time and feel now is an appropriate time to share my thoughts. I have arrived at this conclusion largely due to Wyoming being a peripheral state to Colorado.

As many of you know Colorado and Washington have recently embraced the use of marijuana. I have no real issues with people using marijuana, but here is where the real rub comes in. Does Peyton Manning really want to be associated with retiring after the “Pot Bowl”?

Seriously now; During this time when Colorado and Washington are embracing (according to federal law) an illegal drug, for the sake of revenue, Colorado has lost to the state of Wyoming (so far) three legal revenue generating manufactures.

Magpull Winner
abcovey / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

An even deeper look at the issue of safety shows these states are lacking in judgment and are neglecting to provide their residences reasonable safety measures for a “few more dollars”. This is also indicative of a continued moral decline in leadership of both the Federal and State governments by telegraphing the message, “You don’t have to step up and be responsible, we’ll lower our standards to meet you where you are”. Meanwhile signaling danger to all who travel the highways as well.

The short term effects afforded the states are as follows:

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Something more important happened today

Praying_HandsI will enter my post tomorrow or Sunday during the football game, but I felt as though my time was better spent praying for the families in Connecticut that were affected by the horrible act committed there today. So I ask my fellow leaders, followers, friends and contributors to this website, instead of just reading this – please pray for leaders in that community to do the right things and have the right words for the friends and families affected.


“Lord please be in Connecticut tonight with the families that are experiencing more pain than I can possibly imagine.  Please try to bring them comfort and peace, knowing that their loved ones are not suffering but enjoying the everlasting fun, freedom and sunshine that playing in your company brings.  Lord please bring the right people into their lives to help them with their grief and sorrow.  This holiday season we are enjoying with our friends and family now will always have a terrible memory tied to it for them.  I pray your Son’s birthday can bring them some peace.”