Nero was probably not a bad guy. It could be that the Emperor --using modern jargon--lacked "situational awareness" , thinking there were only a few spot fires occurring instead of a catastrophic conflagration. By the time he realized what was going on it was too late.
Could there have been something similar going on during Katrina?
There are probably all kinds of important management lessons to be derived from how Katrina was handled or mis-handled. One important lesson is how managers use and abuse metrics. Evan Thomas in Newsweek describes how President Bush continued to hear good news from his underlings even as New Orleans drowned:
"Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole."
What's the management lesson? Beware of Metrics. Good managers love metrics. And, of course, good subordinates know how to give a boss the numbers he wants to hear.