Thursday, June 9, 2011

When Leadership Trembles

My hands quivered. My heart raced. My legs felt wobbly. The sound of mourning and panic billowed through the dust filled air. I made my way through the rubble and began looking for those I was responsible for.

This was Port-au-Prince, Haiti during the earthquake in January 2010. I was there with a small church team from New Brunswick. Thankfully the entire team was safe despite being surrounded by rubble and debris. The endless night that followed of treating crowds of injured people left me trembling – and feeling useless and helpless.

The experience has left a lasting impression on me and has utterly shaken my approach to leadership. I shudder when I think of what may have been. Thankfully my leadership task involved evacuating a team that was shaken - but alive.

I am still sorting through the various emotions and perspectives that have been dislodged by the earthquake. I know that the experience has changed me, but I am not fully sure how.

Experiencing utter uselessness in the face of disaster is humbling. Realizing, that in a torrent of desperate need your best effort is pointless is demoralizing. No feelings of heroism. No evidences of positive impact. The dead wrapped in bed sheets mocked any feelings of effectiveness.

I carry Haiti with me in my new role. The injured and dying keep things in perspective. I often wonder; does the approach to leadership change if you are not trying to avoid being hurt or determining to avoid failure?

Maybe it is only when leadership trembles – that it is no longer afraid.

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