Are You a 21st Century Leader?

The Occupy movement is raising questions about leaders in business and politics.

Motivated by corporate excess and government blundering of our nation’s economic system “occupiers” are expressing frustration and anger by taking to the streets. With a fuzzy message fueled by personal economic challenges and years of feeling powerless against “the big guys,” the unfortunate reality is that what these protestors are for or against is impossible to achieve.

There’s only one way things will change. And looking to “leaders” to fix the problem is not the answer.

The challenge in the numerous crises facing our country today is that most people can identify the problem and yet feel that they have no role in creating the solution. The time has come not to overthrow our leaders, more than 229 years later our great democracy has shown us that we have perhaps come full circle – indeed, the time has come to become the leaders we wish to see in the world and pursue a different path to reach a more desirable destination.

So what is the solution?

Be the Change

Gandhi understood that it takes more than merely shining a light on an issue, change comes when a critical mass of people commit to living a different way – and actually start doing it.

Rather than staying focused on the problem (and a sense of powerlessness), this incredibly infectious energy must be directed toward behavior change and resolution. Instead of occupying someone else’s space, perhaps they can take their relevant and needed ideas and put them into practice in the communities in which they live. What they are advocating is necessary for the greater good and we still need someone to do it.

Are you a finger pointer or a change maker?

Take a few moments to consider these questions:

  • Are you living the change you wish to see in the world? Do you inspire others or drag them down with pessimism, fear and blame?
  • How are you sharing your talents, skills and passions while supporting others’ growth and ability to lead?
  • Are you a leader in the groups in which you work and volunteer? Are you giving your best and working toward greater fulfillment and enjoyment in your life or are you just “getting by”?
  • Where do you live? Why? What you are doing to be a contributing member of your community?
  • What do you see in the world that you wish were different? What are you doing right here, right now to change it right where you are?

If change is what the Occupy movement truly wants than pushing against failed leadership must stop. Beyond the protest – is the opportunity to become the leaders they wish to replace – and the opportunity to start doing it – NOW.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Seems like a good point. Wondering how the Occupy Movement compares to Woodstock vs. Gandhi’s non-violent resistance vs. the Civil Rights Movement. Those latter two felt more noble and worthy of attention and support. To be honest, I haven’t been following the Occupy Movement that closely. From that vantage point, feels like a bunch of pissed off people without a clear purpose.

Scott Span


Great questions to ponder as related to recent events. I like the Appreciative Inquiry approach. Reminds me of the theory of socialized power vs. personalized power. Some choose one of the other, and we can see what happens when that is the case, thus some of the Wall St. leadership the OWS folks are protesting. Speaking of leadership, I would add another question in this case: How do you communicate your mission and vision as a leader and help encourage desired outcomes?

Kathleen Schafer

Andrew–I agree that the difference between the Occupy movement and the social movements of the 60’s is that this one is fueled largely by anger and fear while 50 years ago, it was spawned by hope and desire for greater freedom. Anger can be a wonderful motivator, IF, leaders go beyond that emotion to find the passion and greater good they are desiring–and then do something about it.

Kathleen Schafer

Scott–I love your question, as I feel an essential element of leadership is the ability to communicate your talents, skills and passion in a way that others can clearly see it. This leads back to a challenge for the Occupy movement–without a passion for what can be and an understanding of what you bring to making it a reality, it is difficult to achieve real world results.

Dannielle Blumenthal

I don’t get it. What do they want? Why can’t they spit it out? I’ve never heard of a movement that is about having a movement rather than pushing for a specific social change. Every time they are interviewed on and asked to articulate a position – nothing of any substance.

Either identify the problem and try to fix it, or stop kvetching.

Sandeep Nair

These comments seem completely out of touch. Dannielle, I’ll tell you what ‘they’ want.

I’m not understanding the inability to comprehend whats going on on the ground and the message being expressed by the Occupiers at all. Yes I’ve been to a few of the protests and visit Zuccotti Park on occasion but that is not where my understanding of the message comes from.

Its the Internet. Its understanding that a physical body and its presence is not necessary to make change. Occupy is the physical manifestation of a resounding digital consensus, to get people to notice and to take seriously the needs of a new generation.

Occupy Wall Street wants Direct Democracy. Occupy Wall Street is more in line with an anarchic functioning global economy of merchants (think Ebay and Craigslist). Occupy is against the traditional notion of Producer and Consumer. Occupy is about Developer and User, think open source, think anti-copyright, think remote work and a shared economy.

It seems most of the commentators have been asleep as the world revolutionizes in line with the Law of Accelerating Returns (Moore’s Law, Intel.) There are millions of people in this country that the House and Senate can not address, and they remain voiceless. Occupy wants direct legislative voting by the Citizenry. Occupy is closely aligned with the Anonymous hacker collective. Trying to follow Occupy without paying attention to what Anonymous has been doing for the last few years will keep you blind.

The world is changing and a representative democracy filled with lobbyist and purchased politicians can not operate for much longer. Occupy, the Arab Spring, Anonymous are all screaming out, basically banging your heads over and over again with what ‘they’ want. Unless you want to be a Luddite and shut down the networked reality we live in, the inevitability of some form of Direct Democracy IS coming.

We have the practical functioning ability to replace a representative democracy. The 1% are not only the billionaires, they are also the limited selection of people running for office.

Though I have no respect for the man, Rick Perry is trying to tap into a little of that Ron Paul magic when he says he wants to cut down the federal government by salary and employ. Rick Perry is probably not conscious of much, but his campaign is aware of the Ron Paul campaign’s survival on direct democracy advocates, many of whom are Anonymous associated or supportive of. See the Guy Fawkes masks everywhere. ‘They’ are spreading. Rather we are here and you are one of us.