Leadership....or politics?

The unfortunate fallout from Hurricane Katrina continues. As we do everything we can to ensure the survival and healing for all of the individuals who have been impacted by the devastating storm, there also needs to be a focus on what happened at the level of leadership--and why.

Politics or leadership?

The actions and words of those responsible for the various levels of government response demonstrate a very critical distinction: Politics and leadership.

Politics, by my definition here, encompasses the words and actions necessary to maintain the popularity contest that modern elections have become. Leadership is a different beast entirely. But, before we focus there, let's consider the implications of our over-saturated media environment.

Even though blogs and other emerging person-to-person media are slowly changing the way that we learn about events like Katrina, the core of our mass-media influence remains under the control of the few major "news outlets". This means that the opinions and bias of a relatively few individuals impacts a great many people. Furthermore, since emotional responses from viewers and listeners keep them viewing and listening, modern "news" focuses on capturing the hearts of the audience before addressing their minds.

Why is this important? Simply because the popularity contest that has emerged as the American electoral system requires that those hearts belong to those competing for the prize. This is why so much of politics has become a blame game. Everyone wants to look good so they focus on keeping the negative from sticking and having the positive build them up.


A leader does not concern him- or herself with what others think. For one thing, doing so requires far too much energy that needs to be applied elsewhere (toward leading!). For another, it is impossible to please all the people all the time, so trying to do so becomes self-defeating. Leaders recognize this. As a result, they focus on what needs to get done. What's important. What is worth the time and effort of the leader and the team. If you really are trying to get something done, it's clear that this is where your focus should be.

What now?

I am not going to use this medium to express my personal opinion about blame or to articulate the root cause analysis I've done to this point surrounding the response to Karina of those in authority. What I will do is to encourage you, as a leader, to realize that to lead, you need to stay focused on what needs to be done and why--and ignore the opinions of those who choose to pontificate while maligning you and impugning your character. That always happens to real leaders.

We trust history as our judge. Sooner or later, reality emerges.