Thinking about leadership


As I watch events unfold following the earthquake in Christchurch my thoughts turn to leadership and what defines leadership in a crisis?

What have I seen? Firstly there are those individuals who in the first terrifying moments rushed to the aid of others, often without a thought for their own personal safety and then having done their bit faded, anonymously into the background.

Then there are the emergency services, they arrive next, in response to calls and bring with them structure, systems and processes.

Following on from there are the elected officials, the mayor, the politicians, the Prime Minister. Theirs is the leadership of carefully selected, moral boosting words and phrases.

Then next will come ‘the saviour’, the leader responsible for the reconstruction often another politician or high profile, charasmatic person with a military background. They provide the leadership of hope; a rallying point for the masses. This leader is supported by the social agencies and churches who also provide leadership as well as assistance.

Underneath all this are common, ordinary people providing often unseen, unreported acts of extraordinary leadership. The individual that runs from house to house warning residents to flee as a cliff face threatens to fall. People who put their neighbours or family members ahead of their own welfare. People who help dig mud from a neighbours house or rescue a stranded family pet.

Finally when the houha dies down, the media have left town and families have claimed their lost, loved ones the leadership comes from the heart of individuals, the common people. The same people who leapt into the fray in the first moments of the crisis; as well as each and every person in every affected community.

The elected leaders will have titles and be supported by enormous, but totally insufficient resources. The will be followed by the media, reported upon, have their actions analysed, bear the brunt of the criticism and take the kudos for the outcomes.

Those that live in the community; while still providing leadership, have no titles, be of little commercial value to the media and have to provide leadership for a long and extended period with little or no resources other than what is in their heart and their wallets. At the end what will they have?

They will have pride in what they have achieved because when the sun sets they don’t get to walk away. They stand there in the dusk proud of what they have helped to create.

The people of Christchurch will rebuild their city. Not because it is a modern city with money and resources available, not because of elected officials or politicians and not because of acts of heroism. They will rebuild the city because people keep stepping up and providing leadership where they can. They don’t wait for titles or rules and regulations, they find ways to work with those or around them. They simply do what they can to help others get their lives back together and in turn others return that help.

Often through the media, those depicted as leaders are sporting heros or warriors or someone that achieves something spectacular, when in reality everyone regardless of their place in the pecking order has the ability to provide leadership and often does.

Those are my thoughts for the day.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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