Hurricane Harvey Texas August 25, 2017Hurricane Harvey began pounding the middle-to-eastern part of lower Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017. A tropical storm that rapidly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane, Harvey made its initial landfall at the small town of Rockport, TX, virtually wiping it off the map in terms of devastation and damage.

An unusual weather pattern that had a persistent low pressure system from the west and high pressure system from the east kept Harvey virtually stationary for almost five days.

Given its close proximity to the Gulf coast, Tropical Storm Harvey maintained its tropical force winds, which in turn sucked up massive amounts of moisture from the sea just to its south.

This coalition of natural forces brought unprecedented flooding to the Houston metropolitan area.

We will discuss the unquintessential leadership responses of both President Donald Trump and Joel Osteen, the “health and wealth gospel” (distilled message: if God loves you, then you’ll be fabulously wealthy and healthy and if He doesn’t, then you’ll be in poverty financially and healthwise – either way, it’s all on you and making sure you curry favor with God so He loves you and doesn’t hate you) proponent whose headquarters is in what was formerly the 16,000-seat Compaq Center that was home to the Houston Rockets Houston,  in just a bit.

But first, it has to be acknowledged that Houston, like most of the boom cities over the last 20 years, bears its share of responsibility for the extreme flooding its seen in the last week.

Houston, because of the concrete jungle that’s emerged as industries, businesses, and lots of people have moved in and sprawled out in every direction from the downtown area, now has little undeveloped land where water could be absorbed and flood risks mitigated.

Houston Flooding Hurricane Harvey August 2017Houston officials have known this for quite some time (flooding has been intermittent with heavy rainfall since the city was founded in the mid-1800’s and has only gotten worse with time, development, and population growth).

But instead of focusing on the safety of the city and its residents already in place – in effect, putting a moratorium on growth and expansion to address and correct existing problems – Houston has pursued even more expansion and growth.

In effect, Houston officials have chosen to gamble the lives of their existing residents – and jeopardize new residents – in favor of the bottom line (more business and more people equals more money).

And Houston is not alone in this pursuit for the love of money (perhaps its no coincidence that Joel Osteen is based in Houston because he and the city share the same common goal), but it is the city in the spotlight of this trend today.

President Donald Trump visited Houston on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

President Donald Trump Houston August 29, 2017And, in keeping with his unquintessential leadership in business and as the chief executive of the United States (while Hurricane Harvey was making landfall, President Trump issued his highly-controversial pardon of ex-Arizona sheriff Joseph Arpaio), the visit was all about Donald Trump.

Showing little understanding, empathy, and compassion for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, President Trump talked exclusively about, almost with a disturbing glee, how this storm was bigger than any other storm previous presidents had to deal with and about how awesomely he was responding to the unfolding crisis.

Additionally, instead of publicly mourning the dead and using his office to ask for donations and relief for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, President Trump instead boasted about how many people came to see him in Texas.

And, as has been the case in every aspect of this presidency, President Trump surrounded his visit with the pathological dishonesty he and his associates practice as a matter of course.

One instance was President Trump’s claim that he saw the “devastation and horror” of Hurricane Harvey firsthand. It was one more lie.

Not only did Texas call President Trump on it, but also people who were there with him said President Trump was lying.

Dishonesty, an unquintessential leadership trait, it turns out, among other things, is an issue with Joel Osteen’s response to Hurricane Harvey.

Let’s get this straight. If we claim to follow Jesus Christ and be, live, do, and speak as He did, then we have a bar, a standard of perfect righteousness, godliness (which includes mercy, compassion, empathy, humility), and service that we – although we all fall far short of even in the best of times – are dedicated and committed to, no matter what.

Read through the gospel accounts in the Bible and see what Christ was doing while He was here on earth. Jesus Christ was the perfect quintessential leader.

His example, if we claim to be Christians, is the example we are supposed to be following. Otherwise, we are not following Jesus Christ, but something and/or somebody else.

The spotlight for this example is even brighter on those who claim to leaders of Christianity. And Joel Osteen has done a fantastic job of self-promotion in which he claims to be a leader of Christianity.

But he is not (and, frankly, the response, from an organizational standpoint, from many other religious organizations located in Texas has been spectacularly underwhelming and limited to just their 501(c)(3) congregations, with virtually no reaching out either to other 501(c)(3) organizations or to their communities).

While emergency response organizations and law enforcement and the military were scrambling to get shelters open as early as Saturday morning, Houston business owners and individual residents, without equivocation and without being asked to, started finding ways to help those who were flooded out and needed a place to stay, dry clothes, food and water.

Joel Osteen Lakewood Church Houston, TXJoel Osteen, a supposed Christian leader, did nothing for several days. When his inaction came under scrutiny, his dishonesty and unquintessential leadership became apparent.

In full defensive – and decidedly unChristian – mode, Osteen said first that Lakewood Church was “inaccessible due to severe flooding.” However once photos surfaced showing only a few inches of water on the ground, Osteen then contended that Lakewood Church hadn’t opened as a shelter because Houston hadn’t asked it to do so.

Finally, with his back against the wall, Osteen dishonestly maintained that “our doors have always been open” and that “we were a shelter.”

Neither President Trump’s nor Joel Osteen’s responses to meet the real and urgent needs of the people in the path of Hurricane Harvey are representative of quintessential leadership. They are, in fact, unquintessential leadership, in microscopic detail.

As we strive to become quintessential leaders, we must always be aware that we too are examples, not just for our teams, but for every person with whom our lives intersect.

Our words are not enough. Actions must follow and those actions must be consistent with who and what we say we are striving to become.

In the end, our actions serve one of two purposes to everyone else.

If our actions are those of unquintessential leadership, then our purpose becomes to serve as a warning, a cautionary tale, of what not to be.

If our actions are those of quintessential leadership, however, then our purpose becomes to serve as a mentor, a coach, an example to follow.

How are we doing?

  1. Martha Peeples says:

    Your blog makes an excellent point: in times of crisis, we witness both the very best and the very worst actions of humanity. Trump and Osteen are showing their true colors, while the folks with the least amount of money are giving all they have. These are the true followers of the teachings of Christ. And it matters not at all whether they are technically known as “Christians.” Thank you for another thoughtful and important post.


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