On Sandy and Leadership

This is my first blog post since Sandy swept through and my last blog post before the election on Tuesday…so I have some stuff to say. Let’s face it, we had a rough week. I am massively grateful that everyone I know and love is present and accounted for, and power has finally been restored to both my home and my business. At the same time, I feel like things will never be quite the same. Actually, I am hoping things are never quite the same.

I was as prepared as I could be—even though I had some last-minute generator issues that required some quick action—which enabled me to have coffee, a refrigerator, and heat for the three days we were without power. Three days doesn’t sound very long now that I write it. But believe me, it felt like an eternity. It was an eternity during which Twitter was the only thing that would load onto my iPhone and was my only link to the world outside. It was an eternity during which I could only capture snippets of what was going on—repetitive references to “infrastructure” and finally, some talk about climate change and the election, like a last-minute guest who shows up at a dinner party, perhaps invited, perhaps not, welcomed by some and not welcomed by others.

As Sandy raged through Monday night, once my kids were safely tucked in their beds I opened the door to outside to see what was going on. It was horribly dark, and the sound of the wind was louder than anything I’d heard coming from the sky before. Rain was inconsistent, but lightening flashed without thunder. What struck me most was the smell: Sandy smelled like the ocean…like all that Jersey beach was still stuck in her dress as she swirled in an angry dance over my Pennsylvania mountain home. At that point I had no idea what damage she had done, was doing, or would do. Would my roof be over my head when I woke up the next day? Would I wake up? I had prayed to my many trees to dig in their roots and stand strong….

The next morning, everything was fine. My trees did stand strong, even though all the roads around me were shut because of other falling trees. No power, but no harm done. As I checked in on family, coworkers, buildings, and roads, I was both thankful and angry. It was as though Sandy, when I had opened the door to her the night before, had infused me with some of her rage.

And my rage was focused on the idea of leadership. I read a tweet that said Romney was ahead in some polls because of his “likeability.” LIKEABILITY?!!! That’s how we vote for a President?! I started to fume about our Hollywood-movie culture. We want a leader to look a certain way or make certain dramatic speeches when the chips are down, and yet we as a country—because of our fickleness and shallow thinking about things like budgets and taxes and the economy—have let our INFRASTRUCTURE  be weakened to the point it is ridiculously out of date and unsafe, whether it be power lines or subways, while our climate change denial has lead to more aggressive and frequent storms, droughts, floods, and disasters that then require even more money to fix. It’s a common, very human tendency, and I’ve seen it at work in my own business. It’s so frustrating!

I started to think about my own leadership at work. Leadership is hard!!! Leadership means solving problems that no one else really wants solved because doing so means they have to get out of their comfort zones. They might have to change, plan ahead, do things differently. SPEND MONEY up front on things rather than wait till it’s too late and then have to spend a hell of a lot more. This is the disease of our time: Whether it’s not wanting to spend more money up front on healthy food but then costing everyone a fortune when you get a chronic disease or not wanting to increase tax dollars and regulations to come up with a smart power grid fueled by alternative energy that works (rather than chemical corn and soy biofuels and fracking that do even more damage to our health and the environment). Everyone wants the easy answer, the path of least resistance, the status quo. You can believe that it’s not your problem and reduced government spending will solve everything, and that just focusing on abortion and gay marriage will make America strong again, but that’s freaking CRAZY!

Real leadership requires doing things that are not fun, not popular, and not sexy. Real leadership looks like Governor Christie and President Obama standing rumpled and shoulder-to-shoulder in the aftermath of a storm, petty politics put aside, united by a Bruce Springsteen view of America as a place where “we take care of our own.” (I know Christie is a Bruce fan and Bruce is an Obama fan.) But real leadership is what happens when the doors are closed and the plans drawn up that make hard choices about what gets funded and what doesn’t. Which bullies we let into our businesses and which bullies we push out. Can Obama do better? Of course. Can I do better? Absolutely. But the important thing is we are DOING.

If you look at the facts—JUST THE FACTS—Obama has been an amazing president during the most challenging time of our lives. I don’t care about whether he has developed a New York Times–worthy “narrative.” I am a woman CEO of an independent, family-owned business. I have never asked for or received a bailout from anyone. I don’t play the political game (which trust me, all the Republican men I know are damn good at; they know how to work the system and milk it for their own benefit like free beer from a keg). I constantly witness my own industry, the world of media, focusing on the wrong things—the superficial, scandalous things—because they’re “what people want” and what YOU will pay for. The truth is, we are all in this “business” together, and we all choose OUR reality by what we pay for and what we pay attention to.

Sandy has spoken.

And tomorrow, I’m voting for Obama.




Photo: NASA via Getty Images


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27 Responses to On Sandy and Leadership

  1. Nikki Lindqvist November 5, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    Well said! Me, too!

  2. Adam November 5, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    Inspiring writing, great perspective and thanks for Washington Monthly link!

  3. Kimberly Brown November 5, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    Totally agree! I’m voting for President Obama too, without a doubt.

  4. Bonnie November 5, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    What? Voting is too important to vote for an incompetent like this current President! A small minded person with no background to show any worthwhile activity! He wants people to vote for revenge! Mean spirited just like his beloved Minister Reverend Wright who preached to him for 20 years about American be damned!

    I am voting for someone with a proven record of leadership. Mitt Romney has a proven record of leadership.

  5. Jamie November 5, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Inspiring words. Thank you.

  6. Lorna Donaldson November 5, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Well said Maria! We all have the responsibility to step it up! I voted early for this incredible man serving as our leader. Obama
    Four More Years!

  7. robin November 5, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Thank you Maria. I certainly hope that we continue to move forward with our President.

  8. Rosalba November 5, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Wonderfully written and well said! Me too, Maria. Thank you!
    Miss you all!

  9. Karen November 5, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Always appreciate/enjoy your blog, Maria, but I leadership begins with protecting those who can’t protect themselves……the unborn. If that’s the only reason I’m voting for ROMNEY…..so be it …..and may God help us with every other mess our country is in.

  10. Patti November 5, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    Thank you for capturing exactly how I feel Maria! President Obama is my idea of a leader!

  11. Peter November 5, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Mitt Romney is kind of like the wind during Sandy. One minute blowing strongly NE, then switching around the to SW. Who knows WHAT he believes? Thanks for the clear vision on leadership, and for catching some of the fury of Sandy. Should we start tracking Hurricane Maria on the charts? Set up the wind turbines, in that case. We could use the energy.

  12. Barbara November 5, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    It is like you spoke my own fury and frustrations in your post. I could add so much more but that might just be more than enough (too much wind). I believe abortion is wrong, but I think what stands behind Romney, his support from big business looking to get rid of the regulations that might cost them money but protect the common interests of all (health and environment), is so much worse. We can educate about abortion. Big business taking over our country ( to a tighter grip than it already holds) will send us back to a dark and hungry time that we try to forget. Thank you Maria, for being a voice in the political storm. We have to weather it, and it might cost some to survive, but we need to stand strong against it now or it might just get stronger.

  13. Helen Nelson November 5, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Hmmm I’ve heard people are backing Obama because of his likeability. Believe me that’s NOT why I am voting for Romney.

  14. angie November 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Thank you for your inspiring articles , Maria! As a canadian, I sit back and watch this election unfold with overwhelming angst , it really saddens my heart that so many small minded people are voting for the wrong reasons. The decisions are made with such antiquated belief systems that ultimately harm the greater good . There is an overwhelming majority from the whole entire world ,who would vote the current President back into office ,perhaps they see something that those in America cannot (religion and colour come to mind). Do these potential voters realize that Mitt Romney is Mormon (not really Christian) and that he comes from a background of wealth and privilege, which does not cater to the common American, only if they are going to serve their privileged causes? I think one of the most down played crucial components that have been underadvertised is that his religion is Mormon. All people want to hear is what they want to hear end of story. I hope for the sake of the whole world that there is a true divine intervention, because there will be more storms like Sandy happening on a global scale….. If I had the opportunity to vote it would be for President Obama, good luck Sir!

  15. Sharon November 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Maria, your written words are filled with the strength of Sandy and the thoughts of “hope” for President Obama that I too share with you. Thank you.

  16. Beth November 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Me too, for the first time in my life I am voting for a Democratic president. Romney – likeable? By whom? I’m from Michigan and it’s a joke that he tries to relate to us as his birth home, we are struggling here and he made 42m in INTEREST last year, how does one ever get to that point? Not income, interest….amazing.

  17. Lisa November 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    YES. YES & YES.
    Thanks for getting that off my chest too!

  18. jean rutter November 5, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    I loved your article. My husband Rich, was an employee of yours~he would be so proud. He passed away 2 years ago. He always had the best words for Rodelle Press. He loved working there. Regards, Jean Rutter

  19. Terri Cardellino November 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    YOU Go girl!! If we only had more leaders like you. Thank you for this blog, your enthusiasm and your caring.

  20. Joyce November 7, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Please remember that the Obama adminstration named the former head of Monstato as the head of the Food and Drug Administration. If Rodale Press is passionate about eliminating GMO’s from our food source, then why support an administration that is supportive of something that can be so devastating to our food chain? That allowed someone who an agenda to be part of our food source decisions and that is distubing.

  21. Karen Freeland November 7, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Your blog entries are always so uplifting! I regret that I don’t actually read that many, but vow to read more! I too have faith in President Obama to guide this nation through the next four years!!

  22. Bonnie November 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Sadly, pain ahead for those who have worked hard to build a good life for themselves.

  23. Donna in Delaware November 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    For too long the Republicans have held back on cooperation with this president and his party, simply because they DO NOT WANT HIM TO HAVE ANOTHER TERM! Now they have NO EXCUSE NOT TO COME TOGETHER, and get something done for the benefit of the country and the people. BEHNER NEEDS to get his party together and have a in-depth talk with them about cooperating with this president, otherwise the country will be held back from progression for another 4 years because of their stubborness and stiff-neck attittude. They are not only hurting Obama, but the country as a whole. This attitude will keep us from being a MAJOR PLAYER on the world stage, hurting us in our foreign relations. The 47% be damned. It will still be a ‘I got mine, you get yours’, any way you can attitude. This is NOT conducive for positive change. Wake up politicians!The people have spoken yet again! Learn something from this REPUBLICANS, and move ahead for the betterment of us all. You may have yours, but that can change in a heart beat! Nothing is forever!

  24. Donna in Delaware November 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Another problem is that we are too complacent in this country. People, it’s over! It’s been over, that period in our lives as individuals, and as a country, whereby we have so much, and that we are on top, and will remain so. Those days are gone, get used to it! It is somebody else’s turn now, but that doesn’t mean that we have to roll-over and play dead! Let’s get busy being at least better than we are right now. Let us get back into the mix. It will NEVER again be the way that is was, those glory days of this country, but we can certainly try to be the way that we need to be, safe, secure, healthy and on the same page.

  25. Bonnie November 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Remember the Aesop fable. The grasshopper and the ant. We must be a little of both. I am not seeing the ant part of this administration.

    I am mostly seeing the trillions of spending continuing on and on.

  26. Lisa November 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

    I voted for Obama, too, because I believe he cares about all Americans, and I don’t believe Romney does. I don’t understand a previous comment mentioning Obama’s small-mindedness–he stands with the LGBT community and their right to marriage (as does my state, MD, of which I’m proud). This comment also stated President Obama had no background. I’m not sure what that means, but I do know every one of us has a history–cultural, secular/religious, geographical, family, professional, educational–including the POTUS. It’s sad that women, over half the population, will still have to fight for their reproductive freedom when we can’t feed all the children living in our country today. It’s disturbing the power religious organizations wield in the realm of politics, considering their churches are non-profit and therefore, tax-exempt; alas, these concerns will be here tomorrow. I’m going to enjoy what the 2012 election yielded today.

  27. Donna in Delaware November 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I don’t think that most Americans are seeing anything. That’s the problem. If the republicans know so much, then why don’t they help do something about it in conjuction with the Obama Administration! I’ll tell you why, because they have no answers either!! People seem to think that this is an easy problem to get out of, NOT! Want a quick fix to an over-the-top major problem, that’s not only affecting us, but the majority of the world? Get in line! It’s not going to happen. It can take up to 25 years sometimes when a law(s) is put in place to produce a change in a situation such as this. This is not a game people, where you can get instant results! Get real, but a plan must be put together to achieve the desired results down the road. Some of us may not even get to see it, but we hope to have our children and grandchildren reaping the benefits in the long term. Thank you GWBush for starting unnecessary wars! People don’t realise that when he attacked Iraq, and took it out of the equation for stability in that region, Iran became a monster. The two countries were enemies, and Sadam Hussein kept the Iranians from becoming too powerful. You see, nothing is as simple as what we think. World politics is complex sometimes. Nothing is as black and white as people see it in this country. Learn something first, then talk!

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