There was an interesting report on National Public Radio earlier this week about Haiti. I tried to link it here, but I couldn’t find it in the hundreds of archived earthquake stories. If someone locates it, please let me know so I can post the link.

The story was about the neighborhoods that had not seen any aid workers days after the quake, but were functioning without outside help. They weren’t fine by any means, but they had managed to marshal resources, care for the injured and distribute food and water. There were no roving gangs or crime, even though they were in the middle of Port O’ Prince.

The neighborhood the story focused on had been organized by a small business owner. (Are you surprised?) This shopkeeper, shortly after the temblor, has gathered the stunned people and started directing them to move the injured. He organized stretcher bearer teams. He consolidated the water and food and had it guarded and distributed fairly. He commandeered a place for the wounded, where they were stabilized within the locals’ limited means. He sent out people to search for the nearest functioning medical facility, and began transporting the worst cases to it.

I’m extrapolating a bit. The story didn’t describe the step by step process of organizing the neighborhood, they just talked about the result. Any of us who direct people for a living know how it happened. One person stood up and took responsibility for impacting his environment. When others were saying “Why me?” or “Who will help us?” he said “What can I do?” and “How should we deal with this?”

The third and fourth questions are ones that small business owners ask every day. The first two are the ones asked by people who can’t or won’t take control of their lives. I highly recommend John Miller’s “QBQ– The Question Before the Question.” I’ve met John, and he leads a crusade for personal accountability. He points out that “Why?” and “Who” questions are usually about avoiding accountability, and “What?” or “How?” questions are about taking on the responsibility for a solution.

Leadership begins with accountability. The story of neighborhoods in Haiti is a great example of how one man (or woman, in many cases) can simply decide to change things, and others will follow. In my next blog I’ll talk about my friend Sam, who has changed the lives of hundreds of people forever, without publicity, notice, or giving up his active life.style.

In he meantime, remember the words of Henry Ford. “Asking why a man should be the boss is like asking why he should sing Tenor in the choir.”

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