With the mantra, “Don’t be stuck on stupid,” NCRA 2018 Convention & Expo keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (U.S. Army, Ret.), a 37-year veteran of active service, used his natural humor to share his insights about what leadership is, when and how to use it, and why we need to be resilient.
Honoré, who served as the commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, during which time he became known as the “Category 5 General” for his striking leadership style in coordinating military relief efforts in post-hurricane New Orleans, also shared his military story during a special Veterans History Project interview held during the premier session.
Honoré shared with the audience that the ballroom they were sitting in served as the temporary home to the battalion under his command during Hurricane Katrina, as it was one of the only dry places available after the horrific flooding. He said he and members of his team evacuated people from the nearby Superdome through the hotel and onto buses waiting outside.
“On any given day, anything man-made can be broken by Mother Nature,” Honoré said.
He also talked about his experiences in other hurricane recoveries, including Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and other coastal areas, and shared some of the lessons those experiences taught him, including the importance of being resilient rather than being stuck on stupid. He illustrated his point by sharing the story of a McDonald’s restaurant built on a river that has flooded numerous times and has been rebuilt numerous times. Each time it has flooded, some 20 employees are out of work.
“We’ve got to stop being stupid. If you build along a river, you’re gonna flood. With the various changes in weather, if you live along the coast, you need to be ready for storms. Sea levels have risen along the East Coast and our coastlines are at risk. You need leadership to help raise good kids because they are the ones who will need to lead us through the strains and challenges of the changing weather and other issues of today,” Honoré said.
The points Honoré shared with the audience about leadership included:
- Grow children. You are going to have to practice leadership. Save your best leadership for when you get home. Leading at work is easy. Leadership is the ability to influence others to accomplish a task or a challenge. Ask, what does it take to influence this child?
- You want to surround yourself with smart people.
- Leadership comes at a price. You need to figure out what works. To lead requires sacrifice. If you are not sacrificing, you are not leading.
- Do the routine things well. Teach your children that.
- Don’t be afraid of the impossible.
- Don’t be afraid of the opportunities on the other side of the impossible. Be resilient. Go figure out how to deal with things. We put a man on the moon but haven’t been able to develop a transmitter that a squirrel can’t chew through.
“If you are going to lead, you are going to be criticized,” Honoré told the audience. “People are scared of change. You have to create and lead change. People push back on change. Be patient when leading. The change you need to create won’t be easy. If it is easy, you haven’t changed enough.”