Who Can Lead A Movement?

The Civil Rights Movement, it wasn't just a couple of, you know, superstars like Martin Luther King. It was thousands and thousands - millions, I should say - of people taking risks, becoming leaders in their community.
                                                                         Barbara Ehrenreich

Question: Who can be a leader who makes things happen?

Answer: YOU. You may not have access to a national or international stage, but you can be a leader. You may not like standing in the spotlight in front of the cameras, but you can be a leader. You may not have formal power, social standing, or the range of influence that others have, but you can be a leader.

You may not think of yourself as a leader in actions that can change your world, but you can be. There are simple steps that can move you into a leadership. These steps are simple, but not easy. Each step requires your attention and commitment to working through the complexity of the challenge.

Along the way you invite others to walk this path with you to create patterns of action and change. You engage with them in generative ways that multiply energy and efforts beyond what any one person can do alone. Generative engagements set conditions for open, shared interactions that:

  • Honor and respect those who choose to step in
  • Encourage contribution and participation
  • Build coalitions and connections
  • Create a culture of  justice and fairness

To set the conditions for generative engagements, you take action in three areas.

  1. You build shared identity. Shared identity means that you stand side-by-side with others to focus on shared interests, goals, or intentions. It means that you and those around you are working together to build toward a common vision of what is possible. You articulate your priorities and measure your outcomes—together.

    Having a shared identity does not mean that you give up who you are. It means that you bring all of yourself to the task at hand, contributing what you can. It means you get what you need to stay in the work as a fully participating partner.

    In whatever area you want to lead, learn all you can about the topic to be sure your actions are well informed. Invite others to stand with you. Share your ideas with them. Listen to their ideas. Agree to the goals you want, and publicly name how you will know when you have achieved them. The size of the group you bring together is not as important as the strength of its purpose and its shared identity.
  2. You build a culture of shared power. Shared power is about influence, not coercion. Shared power means that as you engage in the work, you listen to others and consider their input. You reflect on the impact your actions may have on those who cannot speak for themselves. Shared power also means you share your perspectives. You use your voice, your vote, and your presence to help influence patterns across the system. You hold the shared identity of the group as the filter for the work to be done and the decisions that are to be made.

    Shared power is not about abdicating power or authority. It is not about forcing others to your will. It is about being a leader who is willing to influence others inside the identity you share. It is about being willing to be influenced by others as well. If you are in a formal position of power, you have decisions to make and responsibilities to consider. You do that, however, by listening and reflecting. You do it by creating and maintaining transparency in your work.  You do that by empowering and encouraging others.

    As a leader, listen and consider the impact of your shared decisions inside your group, as well as on the greater environment. Use what you know about the work you are trying to do to create the clarity and transparency that allows others to participate and be heard. Step away from coercion to find the most effective balance between collaboration and competition, coordination and isolation, and coherence and compliance.
  3. You grant and generate voice. In generative engagements, you work to understand the positions of others in the exchange. Listen to what is said and what it not said. Discern what you can from body language and other visual cues. Attend to what is offered, paying close attention to how it is offered.

    At the same time, you also strive to be sure communications and intentions are accessible by all. Consider your audience’s reception as you clarify what your message is and what it is not. Check your own body language and nonvisual cues, considering your possible impacts on the outcomes you want. Make sure that whatever you are offering is shared in ways that honor and respect others.

    Leaders who take action to bring about change grant and generate voice in many ways. You have to know who sits on the other side of any disagreement and work to understand their position with empathy and grace. You have to stand in inquiry about how best to grant them voice and how best to generate a voice they can hear in all exchanges.

If you want to know more about how HSD supports and informs your efforts  to change your world, there are two Adaptive Action Labs that you need to know about.

  • May 24 - June 1, 2018: Adaptive Action: Nonviolent Resistance in the 21st Century. Join us in Harrisonburg, VA, to learn more about using HSD in setting conditions for nonviolent resistance. Follow this link to learn more.
  • June 22, 26, 27, 2018: Leadership and Adaptive Action: Set Conditions for Success. This online course explores how leaders in the 21st century can shape patterns of success and productivity wherever they stand. Follow this link to learn more.

Try these courses, take some actions, and let us hear what happens.


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