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Creating a Leadership Movement

Creating a Leadership Movement

Every so often a time arrives where society reaches a crossroads – where the situation and/or circumstance so obviously demands change that a populist mandate – a “movement” takes place. I would submit we find ourselves at just such a crossroads today. We are in a crisis of leadership, and our world is suffering greatly at the hands of people who confuse their desire for an ego boost, their quest for power, and their thirst for greed with leadership. It’s time to say enough is enough – it’s time for a leadership movement.

Movements are nothing new. Some movements have been evolutionary, while others have been revolutionary. Some have been misguided or misunderstood and have been short-lived, while others have taken deep root and changed the world for better. I’m afraid we’ve reached a place in history where if we don’t draw a line in the sand and say we will no longer tolerate personal exploits as a poor excuse for leadership we may be too late. Is this an overreaction? I think not. It’s not too difficult to make the case that leadership has devolved rather than evolved. If you pay even casual attention to the media and world events, it would appear those serving a personal agenda greatly outnumber those serving something greater than themselves. Here’s the thing – we’ll never all agree on what leadership is, or is not, but I think most reasonable people will concur it’s time for a change.

Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters…Whether through malice or naivete, those who abuse or tolerate the abuse of leadership place us all at risk…Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations. The demand for true leaders has never been greater – when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.

It’s time for a leadership movement that values engagement, open dialog, and candid discourse above personal gain. A movement is a cause greater than one’s self – it’s a populist groundswell rather than an elitist academic exercise. A movement is intentional, impassioned and biased toward action. A movement requires a vision that’s inclusive, collaborative, and has an orientation toward service. Most of all, a movement requires people committed to change.

It’s time for less talk and more action. Leadership is not about the power and the accolades bestowed upon the leader, it’s about the betterment of those whom the leader serves. At its essence, leadership is about people. At its core, leadership is about improving the status quo, and inspiring the creation of positive change. As long as positional and philosophical arguments are more important than forward progress, as long as being right is esteemed above being vulnerable and open to new thought, as long as ego is elevated above empathy and compassion, as long as rhetoric holds more value than performance, and as long as we tolerate these things as acceptable behavior we will all suffer at the hands of poor leadership.

So, what’s next? I recently received a message from Steve Farber (@stevefarber) asking me to sign a petition committing to embrace what he referred to as “Extreme Leadership“. I respect Steve as a leader, and this petition resonated with me at a philosophical level – I signed it. But I must admit I was left wondering what’s next? What happens after the signature? Knowing Steve, I’m sure he has plans to turn platitudes into action, to rally those who want to make a difference into actually making a difference. However it all begins with a first step. I would encourage you to sign Steve’s petition.

Moreover, I’d encourage you to start making personal and professional changes. It’s time to dispense with the trivial, and begin majoring in the majors. We must bring the best leadership minds together – I’m not talking about like-minded thinkers, but big thinkers – deep thinkers, open to challenging what is considered “normal” with the goal of shattering outdated thinking. We must dialog and debate, but most of all, we must listen, learn and act. We must focus on what’s wrong with leadership and fix it. I’d ask you to become a better leader and awaken those around you to the dire need we have for a movement of leadership. This is where we start.


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    Mike Henry Sr.

    September 30, 2011 at 1:31 pm


    As someone who has invested a great deal of my energy for the last 2 years in “this movement,” I can’t agree more.  One of the challenges I see however is that everyone seems to have their own idea of what to call it, how to start it, and what it does.  I signed Steve’s Extreme Leadership petition and I hope it’s the exception.  If we don’t end up coming together somewhere, it will end up like cable TV, hundreds of channels and still, nothing to watch.

    Every movement (or revolution) begins with one person, ourselves.  Fix that leader and we’ve got a great start.


      Mike Myatt

      September 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks Mike. I believe your call to fix ourselves first is what Steve’s petition is encouraging as well. I love the cable TV analogy and hope we’ll have something good to watch in our future. Thanks for all you do Mike. 


    September 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    I applaud your call to “challenge what is considered normal with the goal of shattering outdated thinking.” I’d encourage you and the  readers of your posts to look into the website of the Abbeville Institute in South Carolina.
    There a group of scholars around the country, without defending slavery, are committed to a reexamination of what’s best and valuable in the Southern Tradition. Many of their essays really zero in on unchallenged assumptions many have come to hold on leadership and authority.

    Lord Acton wrote:

    “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibilty. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”


      Mike Myatt

      September 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Ron:

      Thanks for sharing the link – I plan on spending time doing some reading there over the weekend. The quote you shared is one of my favorites, and I’m glad to see Lord Acton getting the credit as many give improper attribution to William Pitt.

      Thanks for stopping by Ron.  

    Mark Oakes

    September 30, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Outstanding and Timely post, Mike

    As I read this my mind immediately jumped to folks I know and other public examples of failed leadership. Upon reflection, however, I was reminded of Matthew 7:3 (“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”). I’ve identified areas at home, at work and in my community where I can improve as a leader.

    I’m all for a leadership movement… but it must start with me

    Thank you for challenging my thinking


      Mike Myatt

      September 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Mark:

      I had to resist the same temptation when authoring the post. It’s so easy to point out poor examples of leadership that we often overlook our own flawed examples. I have come to the conclusion we’re all flawed leaders with room for improvement, some just have more room for improvement than others:). Thanks for sharing Mark.


    October 2, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    You will get no arguments from me on this important message. In fact I signed Steve’s petition.

    I do want to hone in on one of the supporting messages in your post: fixing leadership. Perhaps another view on this is not to fix what is broken. Let what’s broken be done. Let us learn from and pull the best parts of what was and transform the ways we lead and connect with people that are suitable for the 21st century and beyond. You make good points and give great examples from which we can use.

    We can’t deny the past and we can’t go back to it either. A leadership movement is essential – emphasis on movement.
    I happily stand by your side, Steve Farber’s, and the gentlemen who’ve commented below to change leadership.

      Mike Myatt

      October 2, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Hi Shawn:

      I agree with your thoughts about the carrying forward the best of what was and leaving the broken behind. I think it’s important to make a distinction here – it’s one thing to identify “what’s” not working, but it’s absolutely critical to understand “why” it’s not working. As you so correctly pointed out, this requires looking both into the past and into the future. Thanks for stopping by Shawn.  


    October 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Mike, this is the 2nd article of yours I’ve read (thank you, SmartBrief) and they both have been provocative, empassioned and on the mark.  Too many senior leaders at the highest levels of the public and private sector have made a mockery of what true leadership is.  And, unless all of us make a concerted effort to change the definition of leadership-or at a minimum demonstrate true leadership in our personal and professional lives-then we will continue to be mired in the muck as a society and economically.  Thank you for igniting the flame of change!

      Mike Myatt

      October 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks for the kind words and salient comments. You are hereby invited to read more:). Thanks again for stopping by. 

    Mike Myatt

    October 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Mike:

    I am in complete agreement – actions speak louder than words, which is why we should heed Benjamin Franklin’s advice. I have always said, leadership is more than thought and rhetoric – it’s also understanding and doing. Thanks for sharing the wise words of caution. 


    October 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    When I attempt to facilitate, or lead, I am branded a trouble maker.  Why must the “boss” feel threatened, rather than embrace an employee who truly cares about the company doing well?

      Mike Myatt

      October 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Not knowing the specifics of your situation, I cannot answer your question. However I can make the following observations: You are either overvaluing your contributions, or your boss is undervaluing them. It could also be that your contributions are deemed valuable, but are just being expressed inappropriately. In either case, communication needs to be improved so you both receive the benefit of one another’s contributions. My suggestion would be to surface the issue with humility by stating your desire to be a more valuable contributor, and by asking how your boss would like to see your thoughts and ideas communicated. The answer you receive should let you know where you stand. 


    October 4, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Kotter in his book “Leading Change” has an excellent quote about corporate leadership: “Because management deals mostly with the status quo and leadership deals mostly with change, in the next century we are going to have to try to become much more skilled at creating leaders.”

      Mike Myatt

      October 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      There is a good reason Kotter has been a disruptive force for change for more than 3 decades – he gets it. Thanks for sharing the quote. 


    October 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I agree with you 100%, but I don’t see any visibile leadership movements other than #OccupyWallStreet and they are still struggling to figure out what they’re about. I have a feeling the American colonists must have struggled with what they wanted to do, also. It is time for a change. While that statement is usually a political platitude, it has become a life and death consideration for the US middle class.  But, remember, it is the conservatives and corporations who control the discourse vocabulary and media. It isn’t all that easy for those who want change to bring that message to our fellow citizens. Al Gore believes (still, I think) that the internet can be a profoundly democratizing thing. And I believe that, too, as long as everyone is exposed to where the honest information can be found. So, #MoveYourMoney  #OccupyWallStreet  and help me find people to support and elect who will work to improve the country.

      Mike Myatt

      October 5, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      I’m not even sure where to start with this, but here goes…I think your heart is in the right spot, but our heads are clearly in different places. Conservatives control the media??? Nothing could be further from the truth. There are both conservative and liberal media outlets that display a bias, but on whole, the mainstream media has a overwhelming liberal bias. This has been the case for the better part of recent American history and simply cannot be credibly disputed. I think most of us long for the days of journalistic integrity from both conservatives and liberals.

      Your comment smacked of being much more of a political statement than a comment about a movement of leadership. While I do agree that the American middle class is engaged in a life or death struggle, it’s intellectually dishonest to villainize conservatives behind the veil of a liberal partisan agenda. I’m not particularly pleased with democrats or republicans of late, which is exactly why we need fewer politicians and more leaders. 

      I completely disagree that those occupying Wall Street are the only current example of a leadership movement. I agree that many of those occupying Wall Street right now have no idea why they’re doing it – interviews of those protesting about why they are there have proven that. Some are curious, some are there out of legitimate frustrations, some are there to further misguided causes, some are there just because they want to be a part of something. I really don’t have any issue with the protest, but I do take exception to those who would use this as a ruse for blame shifting, or to create more unwanted chaos. Might something good come out of these protests? Perhaps, but only time will tell. 

      While I could list many examples of what I would consider earnestly motivated leadership movements, I would cite The Mentoring Project – http://www.thementoringproject.org as one worth noting. Although this movement is being led by the Church, it is non-denominational, there is no political agenda, and they are helping young men to break the cycle of adversity and become better leaders. This is a great example of how to change the world for better.  

      By this point in my reply you may have guessed that I’m not a big Al Gore fan. I’ve heard him speak, I’ve met him briefly, and in my opinion, he is a bigger part of the problem than he is a part of the solution. He has personally, politically, and most of all, financially benefited at the expense of the truth. With regard to your comment about the internet being a tool for democratization, we are in agreement on this. 

      I too hope that this election brings about the needed change we are all seeking. However, that won’t happen if we don’t elect a leader, not a wannabe leader, not a power monger, not just another slick politician – but a real leader. Thanks for sharing.


        October 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

        Mike, we are very much in agreement about most things. I don’t want to argue about whether there is a “liberal” media boogeyman or the other things we do disagree on.  

        Politics is about making collective decisions. Leadership is, by definition I think, a political thing where a leader helps enact a decision involving and affecting people. In order for a leadership movement to be effective, it must have high visibility with potential followers and to its opposition, whatever that may be. I’m sure there are many efforts ongoing today that provide leadership at a local level or within a sector; I just don’t see them having a national or international impact. This is a big country with big problems.I was responding in part to your first paragraph which seems to address a populist mandate as due in the US. And I agree with that. Poor leadership gives us wars with no plans to fund them for the first time in our history. Poor leadership damages the future by harming the educational system, not funding the pursuit of pure R&D which ultimately generates jobs, and structuring corporate taxes to encourage job movement overseas, etc.Leaders must provide a benefit to their followers if they are to have followers. The most visible third party effort ever, the Tea Party, is a blatant tool of the Koch brothers and their corporate ilk. No valuable leadership will come from that quarter.  Is capitalism and politics too tightly bound in the US for the type of selfless leadership you discussed? That’s my fear.

          Mike Myatt

          October 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

          I too sense some common ground and will accept that we likely agree on more than we disagree. It’s interesting though, as you seem to be a bit to the left and I am a bit to the right, yet we agree on much – there is indeed hope:)

          I don’t think capitalism is “the” problem, but run amok or perverted can certainly contribute to the problem. I feel the same way about politics. My belief remains that we are in a crisis of leadership. If we can find our way forward to a place where leaders once again see themselves as servants we have a chance. We must refuse to tolerate, and in fact, displace those in leadership positions who are there for little more than self-serving purposes. It will indeed take a national movement, but all national movements begin with individuals at the local level. From humble beginnings come great things, but great things endure because humble beginnings are not forgotten. 

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