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Leadership Lessons from Katrina for Hurricane Sandy Survivors

Hurricane Sandy, 30/10/12: Flooded Avenue C at East 6th Street in Manhattan’s East Village; Photo David Shankbone

Three Leadership Lessons from Katrina to Help Hurricane Sandy Survivors

By Office-Politics Adviser, Dr. Greg Ketchum

dr. gregory ketchum Like everyone else I’ve been watching the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy. As I’ve watched the images of devastation I’ve found myself experiencing vivid flashbacks of my time being trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The chief emotions these images have evoked in me are anger, frustration, and even rage at the massive failures of leadership that happened during Katrina.

Some of the suffering I experienced during Katrina could have been avoided had I done one simple thing; taken on responsibility and leadership to get myself out of New Orleans instead of depending on authority figures to do it for me. I waited for governments, disaster relief agencies, and the national guard to arrive like the cavalry riding over the hill to rescue us and it didn’t happen while I was there. I was stuck in New Orleans until four days after the storm and it was on that day that I saw my first national guard soldier.

I was so infuriated by the massive failures of leadership during Katrina that I dedicated myself to learning all I could about authentic leadership, and telling the stories of those individuals who’d shown great leadership on the ground in Katrina. I traveled back to New Orleans at least half a dozen times in that year following the storm finding and interviewing people like the commander of the Coast Guard, the general manager of the Superdome, the local agent in charge of the FBI, and many others.

I’d like to share three of those lessons about authentic leadership with people who have been hit by Hurricane Sandy. While no one would willingly choose to go through something like Katrina or Sandy being there does provide the potential to make a quantum leap in your leadership ability and self-confidence.

1) Make the Leadership Switch:
Make what I call the leadership switch, which means switching your focus for direction to inside of yourself instead of outside to some “authority” figure. It means using your leadership instinct as a compass by which to navigate when the external landmarks aren’t clear or have been washed away, literally, as they were in Katrina. Engage your own gut level leadership instincts. Develop your ability to access, trust and act on your own intuition.

2) The Ability to Deal With Reality is Key:
Developing the ability to keep up with a fast- changing reality is key to successfully leading yourself and your family through this crisis. This involves being able to switch off what you thought was going to happen to facing what is actually happening. Further, it means being able to shift your “internal frame of reference” to quickly match a new, changed reality. Being stuck on “this isn’t what’s supposed to be happening” or “this isn’t what I expected” will only impair your ability to quickly recognize and deal with the next new reality.

3) Never Hand Over Complete Responsibility for Your Situation to “Authority Figures.”
Don’t naively trust authority figures as if you’d be trusting God. They will do their best, but they have their own self-interest as well. Always hold onto some quotient of responsibility for yourself and your situation. Never ignore your “leadership instinct.”

If you apply these three lessons that I learned from Katrina I guarantee you that you will suffer less than you might otherwise if your only plan is to wait for the authority figures to come to your rescue.

Read more… Leadership Lessons from The Eye of the Storm

Wikipedia: “Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, as well as the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane in history, only surpassed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The eighteenth named storm and tenth hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States in late October 2012″

dr. gregory ketchum Dr. Greg Ketchum, dubbed the “Frasier of the Cubicles” by the San Francisco Chronicle, is a former clinical psychologist-turned CEO and media career coach. He presides over an executive talent firm, providing coaching and recruiting for executives and Fortune 500 companies. A unique mix of psychology and coaching expertise gives Dr. Greg a great understanding of people and what it takes for career success. Combined with his keen insight into today’s job market, and infused with his trademark quick wit, Dr. Greg challenges Office-Politics readers to reach for career success on their own terms — and to have a good time doing it.

  1. One Answer to “Leadership Lessons from Katrina for Hurricane Sandy Survivors”

  2. Hi Dr. Ketchum. I love your post! The most frequent mistakes I used to make regarding my work life were 1) not trusting myself and 2) putting all the power in authority’s hands. But with time we all learn that the most important voice is the one that comes from within us and of course the reminder that “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”

    By Trishna Sharma on Jan 29, 2013

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