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No such thing as ‘Invisible Leadership’

Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

I usually hesitate to comment on current events, because experience shows that matters are seldom as they appear in the fog of a fast-moving situation.

This weekend’s catastrophic storm event in Auckland, however, speaks for itself and calls for an immediate reaction.

First, I find it ironic that a Mayor, who was elected on a platform of getting rid of bureaucracy and red tape, should blame exactly the same bureaucracy and process for his delay in declaring a state of emergency on Friday night. Even from a distance of 600km, any responsible decision maker could have seen much earlier in the evening that this storm was overwhelming and beyond the resources of any business-as-usual response.

Today, Monday, we hear (RNZ Morning Report) that the Mayor is too busy with ‘back-to-back briefings’ to speak with the media. This looks like a leader hiding from his responsibility to his community of 1.8 million Aucklanders.

Many thousands of people have suffered enormous loss and trauma – broken families, lost houses, destroyed businesses – and have no idea what the next few days or months will bring, or how they might hope to recover. They are looking to their leaders for any reassurance, encouragement, comfort or empathy they can glean.

It’s telling that the new Deputy Prime Minister is scheduled to provide an update later today, rather than the elected leader of the community.

Compare and contrast: most readers of this post will be old enough to remember the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Bob Parker, then Mayor, didn’t lock himself in briefings all day. He was visible constantly, offering support, comfort and confidence that he, the City Council and emergency services were doing all they could in the face of overwhelming damage and loss. His presence was so constant that it was rumoured that he slept in his hi-vis jacket.

A leader can choose what briefings to receive and how long they need to be. A leader then needs to lead. Where I was trained, we were taught that there’s no such thing as invisible leadership

To Mayor Brown, my message today is, ‘Get out there and be the leader Auckland needs.’

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