Empathy, action and results
Recovery from the horrendous natural disaster in Haiti will require a multi-pronged leadership approach, characterized by three important elements: empathy, action and results --with a focus on both immediate and long-term solutions.
We would expect our leaders to address the public with measured calm in such circumstances, but victims and their US-based families deserve genuine empathy born of a profound connection to the plight of the Haitian people, many of whom live in abject poverty and are likely to be facing an extended wait for relief. Therefore, daily briefings and updates on the progress of US aid sent to Haiti is essential, as is an envoy of representatives who can provide important and unbiased information about conditions on the ground.
Grandstanding on the part of our leaders to generate political currency is not what the Haitian people most need or want. In fact, it is a deterrent to providing the critical supply and medical support so essential in these early days following the earthquake.
As is usually the case with leadership, it is not as much what you are doing in the midst of a crisis as who you become as a result of it. Our neighbors will judge American leaders based on our response to Haiti's needs today and our commitment to supporting its future economic recovery. Clearly, the cost of preventing this disaster was far less than the cost Haitians will endure in the coming days.
Note: Marc Cugnon contributed to this post.
Read all panel responses to the On Leadership question: What is the best role for a top political leader in a response to natural disaster such as Haiti's? Daily progress meetings at the White House? Symbolic on-the-scene consultations and relief work? Announcing big budget Marshall Plans?
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