how to be a movement leader

Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, would not give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955. Historians mark the date of her quiet-but-revolutionary act as the start of the modern civil rights movement in the United States.

But Rosa Parks was not just merely a seamstress. She had been involved as an activist for years: She attended a small black university in Montgomery for a few years and then worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council and other civic and religious organizations. Having gained a reputation for getting things done, she was elected secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943.

Some people get really excited about starting a movement or being a part of a movement. What is a movement anyways?

Ken Cochrum describes the best definition he’s found, “A movement is a group of people who consciously, and at their own cost, connect to change the status quo.” Jay Lorenzen at founds this definition: “a collective action that leads to political, social or cultural change.”

Movement Defined from Movement Builders, “An ongoing, informal group action that is inspired by a passionately shared idea and directed toward positive change. describes How to start a movement in 7 easy steps:

Step 1: Know Your Movement
Step 2: Get Educated
Step 3: Make it popular
Step 4: Rally the troops
Step 5: Set up communication
Step 6: Get Noticed
Step 7: Take it easy outlines 5 steps for How to Start a Grassroots Movement:

  1. Define your movement.
  2. Get body.
  3. Find ways of keeping in touch.
  4. Delegate.
  5. When you have achieved critical mass, make your presence known.

Social Edge’s Your Micromovement” suggests 5 steps for starting your own movement [via bioteams]:

  1. Publish a manifesto.
  2. Make it easy for your followers to connect with you.
  3. Make it easy for your followers to connect with one another.
  4. Realize that money is not the point of a movement.
  5. Track your progress.

However you slice and dice the ingredients for mobilizing a movement, to be a movement leader takes much more than organizational savvy. How to be a movement leader starts with a dream, a vision, a contagious passion. Then it’s spreading that passion to anyone and everyone, motivating them to take action, and persevering until the dream comes true.

(cf. Wikipedia entry on Social Movement, The Movement Leader as Hero)

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29 Responses

  1. jasonjeong says:

    what do you think is the most difficult part of starting/developing/growing a movement?

  2. djchuang says:

    Outside looking in, the hardest part of starting a movement is getting started. And then after getting past the inertia of not starting, it's the tenacity and perseverance to keep on going in the face of opposition, challenges, difficulties, and setbacks.

  3. Jason Young says:

    how do you think a (the momentum in a) movement is sustained?

  4. djchuang says:

    Jason, well, to get back to basics, it takes resources to sustain anything, be it a movement, organization, business, or project. Main categories of resources = people, time, money & tools.

    As for the momentum of a movement, that's very much related to people.. at the start of a movement, a “critical mass” for a certain number of the right people that stay zealous as the core of the cause, and then for the momentum to continue and/or grow, it's some intangible combination of more people joining the movement and growing awareness of the movement among the >a>hoi polloi.

  5. Jay Brock says:

    Social's Edge's steps are actually Seth Godin's from Purple Cow!

  6. David Cooke says:

    Thank you. Interesting and helpful. David