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The Boston Bombing Was Close to Home

| April 23, 2013

by Brian McDonald

Brian McDonald reflects on the horrific set of events that took place in Greater Boston and he points out several enduring leadership principles. 

 .  .  .  jim


The Boston Bombing Was Close to Home
by Brian McDonald, President, MOR Associates, Watertown, MA

Marathon Monday is a wonderful tradition in Boston going back 117 years. It is Patriot’s Day as well. An occasion celebrated by the reenactment at dawn of the battle that took place between the Minutemen and the British in Lexington on April 19, 1775. The Red Sox play at 11am so fans can leave Fenway Park to cheer on the runners as they start on their last mile in this grueling contest. Thousands show up along the 26.2 miles from the starting line to Copley Square providing water, oranges and encouragement to those making this trek.  It’s a grand day, perhaps Boston’s finest of the year.

In an instant, this Marathon Monday turned from a triumph for so many to a tragedy for all. In an instant, people went from cheering for others to screaming for help. How unfortunate to have one act undermine the security and safety of an entire community. 

Yet how remarkable it was to watch this same community rally to respond to this catastrophic event.

Once again we saw how individuals can step up in the most challenging moments and do the right thing. It was inspiring to see so many people take the initiative to tear down the barriers to get to the injured and to care for those who were scarred and scared. During a moment of terror we also witnessed an outpouring of compassion and generosity.

Leadership Is About Doing the Right Thing

There were numerous actions taken by too many people to count attesting to the power of distributive leadership. As Steve Fleagle said after the flood took place at the University of Iowa, “people simply went ahead and did what needed to be done. Many never had to be asked, they just took the actions necessitated by the crisis. It was heartening to see.” Our communities can create the environment to prompt people to take initiative even without a crisis.

Distributive Leadership Can Unleash Incredible Energy

We also appreciate all the first responders, law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, Boston Athletic Association volunteers and others who clearly had done the scenario planning to prepare in the event of a disaster. They took on the roles they were required to fulfill in a professional manner we all hope to emulate in times when people need us to be leaders.

Collaboration Across Organizations Was Needed to Accomplish this Mission

We continue to grieve for those who lost their lives including an 8-year old boy, a 24-year old BU graduate student, a 29-year old restaurant manager and a 26-year old MIT police officer. Our hearts go out to their families, their communities and to other places that experience these violent acts.

Boston is strong. Our community will carry on with our traditions. Next year’s 118th Marathon will be a more sacred event and the runners will finish their race. It was helpful to have a mantra, a refrain people could repeat: “Boston Strong” became a rallying cry to hang our hopes on.

Resiliency is a critical leadership competency as we know from our own leadership journeys.  Our communities also need to have the ability to bounce back. It is helpful to support one another as we work through these difficult events. Together we are more resilient than when we are left on our own.

Resiliency an Important Competency for Communities as Well as Leaders

Thanks to all who shared their thoughts, their prayers and their concerns this past week. Everyone in the MOR family was safe and out of harms way this week despite the tragedy and the ensuing gun battle in Watertown our home base. We are most appreciative for your friendship and support.