Evidence Of Leadership – Who Did It New Orleans?

The city of New Orleans has been through a history of social problems and then was pounded by a traumatic natural event that has been a catalyst for change.

The stats – five years after Katrina

  • Low of 250,000 residents and now has 380,000
  • Unemployment is at 7%
  • Crime rate is dropping
  • More restaurants than pre-Katrina
  • Largest Mardi Gras ever this year
  • Close to 500,000 attended the Super Bowl parade
  • A great feeling that the city is going in the right direction

Two weeks ago it was encouraging to be in a city with a vibrant passion and what seemed like a shared vision for a better future. So how has a city that felt that the federal government had abandoned them and they had a local mayor who seemed unable to deal with the enormity of the challenge, go on to demonstrate collective leadership that transformed the city?

My theory:

Aints No More

Individually there was a real desire for change and the ability to go about business as usual was impossible after Katrina destroyed the physical and social bonds that were in place.

  • They had need for and willingness to be hopeful
    • A new football coach and quarterback signed up for the city’s team as they played football and won despite Katrina (symbolic leadership)
    • Mardi Gras was a demonstration of resilience and celebration that they would continue on when that first year they took to the streets
    • Many people despite hardship and sacrifice determined they would rebuild the city and stayed on
    • Partnerships and individuals set about participating in supporting and serving each other (One example is the Habitat For Humanity musicians village, image to the right)
    • Celebrities brought attention and resources to the city

This year, five years after Katrina, the city seems to be turning a corner. The football team galvanized that feeling by winning the super bowl and sharing it with the city. Today, in the city you can feel the energy and shared hope. No less than 10 people that were on the street, in my hotel and in the Jazz clubs thanked me for being there and asked me to tell others about their city. They didn’t need to thank me, because it is a great place to be.

Who has influence to make a difference?

  • The city had many followers of a vision for a better city (hospitality, food, music, fun, community)
  • The individual efforts of a diverse community made the difference
  • A symbol (football team) brought unity and hope that acted as a change agent
  • Many people provided leadership to make this positive change

What can we take from this leadership story? What are you leading today?


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