One of the most effective qualities of a leader is the confidence they inspire. Leadership is at a premium when natural disasters occur. The leaders in Mississippi from Mayor Warr of Gulfport to Governor Barbour worked with one goal in mind: The safety of the people along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Mayor Nagin showed no leadership when he cowered behind walls and wouldn't speak directly to those in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. He showed lack of leadership and concern when he didn't institute the emergency plans the City of New Orleans had in place. And he sure didn't show it when he made the comment telling Houston evacuees they were more than welcome in New Orleans and ask for 'Nagin's special rate' at hotels and motels. Problem was, there was no such special rate and when he was asked about it, he said he was just "joking" to lighten the mood.
I cannot help contrast the leadership of Nagin to the leadership that was shown by Houston Mayor Bill White and the others tasked with helping four million citizens who find themselves without power. I was impressed by the way he spoke. Directv has Houston news on channel 361. Mayor White clearly told the people of Houston what to expect in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. He told of the National Guard, the Coast Guard, and the utility companies which were in place and beginning operations. He asked neighbor to help out neighbor. He complemented those in Houston who took their chain saws and began clearing roadways.
Perhaps if Mayor Nagin had done those things instead of crying along with a reporter from WWL, things might have been different in New Orleans. If he had just said that the National Guard was doing its job and that people in the Superdome and the Convention Center had food and water, there wouldn't have been the chaos that existed.
New Orleans had many heroes. Those who pulled neighbors and strangers out of flooded homes without being told, the kid who commandeered a bus and drove people to Houston were looking out for one another. I have to admit, I was busy listening to my mayor and my governor in Mississippi and New Orleans was just in the periphery, but when I did hear him speak, I felt I was listening to someone who didn't know what to do next.
I didn't have that feeling when Mayor Warr spoke to us in Gulfport. I could hear the weariness in his voice but his words told us clearly what to expect. It was the same with Governor Barbour. And it is the same with Houston's Mayor Bill White.
Houston, Galvaston, Port Arthur, and the rest of the Texas coastline are still assessing the damage. Search and rescue operations are ongoing. Houston, the Texas coastline to Louisiana, and large portions of southern Louisiana are in the dark as shown by this Naval Satellite:
During disasters, it is the clear voice of confidence which leads. The lights will come back on. Homes, roads, and infrastructure will be repaired. Houston has a problem but it seems it is under firm guidance control.