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Fortune Magazine reports on New Orleans’ long strange trip

By August 14, 2006katrina

The story lead-in reads: "Katrina was the biggest natural disaster in US history – and its aftermath became the biggest management disaster in history as well. A year later, Fortune lays bare this surreal tale of incompetence, political cowardice…and rebirth."  The Fortune article is interesting; I like this quote best:

"Since the storm, much of New Orleans’ political establishment has fled from its responsibility to make decisions about the city’s footprint. In a cringeworthy pattern, city bodies repeatedly hired urban planners, who proposed recovery land-use proposals, which then fell into limbo, neither accepted nor rejected, until they were swept aside by the next wave of consultants."

Someone once told me a great leader figures out where people want to go and then ‘leads’ them there.  That’s a cynical statement that acknowledges that leaders ‘lead’ by pandering to the common sentiment.  Populists like this idea because they like to believe that we can rely on ‘crowd wisdom’ more than calculated strategy.  Crowd wisdom can be useful in many situations, but crowds often lack important information.  It’s hard to be wise when you are uninformed, or misinformed.  Political leaders often receive critical information before the crowd does, but they tend not to dispense information unless they think it will be well-received.  Hence, political leaders are seldom going to give us bad news, even if it’s news we need to hear. They’d rather wait for their successors to do that.

Okay, so let’s review: what’s a great leader again?

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