The devastation of Hurricane Sandy over this last week is nearly immeasurable. Having just seen some of the post-storm photos of areas throughout New York, Connecticut and New Jersey are not only beyond description, they represent only a small fraction of the challenge that faces the area now as the clean-up and rebuilding begins.
While these are indescribable tragedies, these are also the times when true leaders emerge and stand out from those who are just filling a position. I’m not just talking about the willingness to of people to engage in helping each other, but leaders that inspire others by their actions of optimism, courage and engagement of others.
Take Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ. Regardless of where you stand on his politics or his prior statements, you have to admire his willingness to back up his statements with action. Mayor Booker himself was among those who went out into the streets of Newark to encourage residents to evacuate and for the homeless to come into the shelters. He used the tools available to him, such as Twitter, to communicate actively with his public without all of the steps of hierarchy between him and his constituency.
In many cases, the heroes and leaders in a disaster like this will always go unknown due to the fact that they are focused more on the outcome than the recognition. These are the individuals that not only take care of their neighbors, but inspire those neighbors with their actions to rise above their fear and loss long enough to come to the aid of those even in worse shape.
And this is where leadership and morality again come together. I am currently in a debate with some of my graduate students (God bless ’em) who chose to believe that leadership has no moral component. I can only hope that they are wrong, because in times like these, it’s the morality that will save lives and create an peace where there is only chaos