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Crisis Reveals Character

It was 46 degrees. I had athletic pants with running tights on underneath, a thermal long sleeve top with another long sleeve shirt and a hoodie over the that, two pairs of socks, and about three blankets over that. My wife was similarly dressed. We were inside the warmest part of our house.

Welcome to the power outage winter snowstorm apocalypse that met much of Texas.

We were the fortunate ones, the extremely fortunate ones. Our power and water were out for nearly three days, but as soon as the roads cleared, we could escape to relatives who somehow retained electricity for most of the harsh weather. Many weren’t as lucky.

Without Wi-Fi or data for the first 18 hours of the storm, it was disheartening to finally reconnect with the world and see the blame game already taking place. Watching those who are in positions of power divert responsibility while you’re sitting in a freezing home, just trying to find out when you might be able to warm-up again, is quite disheartening.

When our instinct is to divert, to deflect, to search for someone or something to blame, then we’ve abdicated leadership. We’ve put the protection of ourself—our ego and our status—ahead of searching for the truth and finding a solution to the problem.

All of us have witnessed a crisis of leadership over the past year. Whether it’s on the national, state, local, or workplace level, we all have stories of poor leadership. It doesn’t matter what side of the political aisle or what your beliefs are, I’m sure every reader could spout off about how when a crisis hit, leadership was lacking.

It’s long been said that crisis reveals character. That if you want to see what type of leader someone is, watch how they respond to adversity. Do they try to divert responsibility and blame, or do they take ownership and find solutions?

In this recent instance, the level of abdication across the board has been abysmal. It might sound like I’m complaining, and I surely am, but I am also heartened by those who stepped up.

As Mr. Rogers said, “Always look for the helpers.”

For example: The furniture salesman who opened up his store for those who were cold and miserable so they could get a good night sleep. Or the professional athlete who paid for hundreds of meals. Or our friend Ryan, who opened up his shop and camper to people who were suffering.

Zooming out even more and considering the past year as a whole, how about the teachers who selflessly have taught online, in-person, and often both at the same time, to help children navigate the pandemic. The scores of people who offered up their homes, water, and food to help those in need. The doctors and nurses who put their own health at risk in the name of helping others. There are hundreds and thousands of instances of leading, often from those that aren’t in positions of power. They see a need, and they fill it. It’s a shame so many of our formal leaders, including elected officials, have such personal gaps when it comes to this quality.

So as we make our way into hopefully a brighter 2021, my hat goes off to all of those who figured out a way to fill a need in these past months. Whether something big or small, kudos to those who stepped up. As we are unfortunately finding, that simple quality—to stand up, even if it means acknowledging fault or taking responsibility—is far too rare.

Here’s to the people who are finding solutions and putting their skin the game. Keep going.

Steve

 

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