Super Cities №61 — How To Lead Through Tragedy

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Bill McRaven has something to say about those so-called lazy kids

“We adults can learn a lot from them”


When tragedy strikes — as it inevitably will — our response says a lot about who we are and what we care about. In this way, tragedy is a most insightful teacher.

Whether in a boardroom or community center, leaders take responsibility, show empathy, and walk through the raging, uncomfortable fire; lesser people calculate, obfuscate, and dither.

In the face of another school shooting, most American leaders showed their lesser selves. Instead of leading, they bee-lined for the closest exit. Those most responsible became those least accountable.

Retired Admiral Bill McRaven, now Chancellor of the University of Texas system, is not one to bee-line, especially during those most sacred moments. Instead of dithering, McRaven elevated young people — kids without a vote but with a voice — and by extension spotlighted lesser people screaming from the cheap seats.

It’s easy to lead when the line is going up and to the right. But history tells us that great leaders — the ones we remember — show up when we need them most.

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