Where Is Superman When We Need Him?

Where are the great leaders who can handle a catastrophic disaster?  What are the characteristics and needed experience for such people?  Some major research is needed on leadership for major and catastrophic disasters, especially those with unusual dimensions like the Japan disasters.

Many years ago, when I read comic books, the Superman character had great appeal. You may recall that the mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent often ducked into a phone booth to achieve his transformation into Superman – the strongman with Krypton-endowed super powers.  The boldly-dressed hero emerged from the booth to take on the big challenge of the day. [More bio info for Superman can be found here.]

We sure could use him today, to lead the way out of catastrophic disasters, though I expect he would not enjoy the paperwork attendant with the job.  Somehow, people still have the expectation that their ordinarily leaders will go through the transformation to a super-leader. Here’s the bad news: when you elect a Clark Kent to a major city, state or national office, you do not get Superman to take the lead for events with extraordinary circumstances. If you are lucky you will get a competent manager, and if you are not you will get a person who crumbles under the weight of the new job. (A practical problem is that we no longer have any phonebooths!)

So, if we are going to have mere mortals lead us and successfully manage disaster response and recovery, we had better do a better job of recruiting and training them for extraordinary duty.

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