How to Lead Your Own Revolution

Silhouettes of Hands in Sky at Protest MarchThere’s a lot of unrest out there in the world. Social issues dominate the headlines and people are taking action. Some movements feel like small revolutions. The question is, as a leader, what revolution are you leading?

Revolution. It’s cleansing. It’s unsettling. It’s awesome.

The wonderful thing is you can start your own.

Revolution is that point in time when a critical mass of people get fed up with some kind of pervasive crap and collectively decide to do something about it. That “something” is usually scary, somewhat extreme, painful, brave, and life-altering.

The American Revolution. Occupy Wall Street. Civil Rights. Wakeup Startup. Revolutions large and small. They all center around a pile of crap, some fed-up people, a cause, and a spark.

When run correctly, a revolution can bring about fundamental societal change. When run poorly, a revolution can bring about fundamental societal change. It cuts both ways folks. The good news is you can start your own revolution pretty easily providing you can galvanize people around a few critical things.

Identify a Pile of Crap

To start a successful revolution, you first have to find a big pile of crap. It has to be something that’s not working in the system. From income inequality to tyrrany and unequal treatment to stupidity, there are plenty of piles of crap to choose from.

Pick the one that upsets you the most. The more unfair or inefficient the crap is, the better. Be able to name it (“I’m really mad about how much time and effort we waste talking about building startups in Columbus but never really making big things happen.” or “I don’t appreciate that Group A has one set of rules while Group B has to abide by another.”). You have to explain what’s wrong in the first place in order to build a revolution around it.

Find Fed-Up People

If you’re the only one rallying behind a cause, you look like a whiny, irrational lunatic. The only change you’ll cause will be the reduction of your social circle. For a revolution to work, you need fellow revolutionaries. Social media makes it easier than ever to find those disenfranchised masses.

Reach out and explain your pile of crap and why it’s wrong or unfair. If enough people also believe it to be unfair, you’ll have the beginnings of the angry mob you need to launch a revolution. Let people know who else is joining the revolution too (like we did when we built WakeUp StartUp so many years ago).

Define Your Cause

The mob needs to know what you’re building toward if you expect them to commit to the cause. You can’t just run around and say “I’m angry about this pile of crap.” You must also define what you want the future state to look like. “No taxation without representation” and other clear, simple ways of articulating a desired end-state will keep the mob’s activities focused.

This is why Occupy Wall Street had so much trouble getting traction a few years ago. There were many piles of crap and many fed-up people, but no galvanizing end-state or cause that people could rally behind. During that period of unrest, I predicted that unless they defined their cause, the movement would lose steam, lose credibility, disband, and be an interesting footnote in history. I pointed out that if a clear, actionable cause did emerge, the “revolution” could slam the economic world order like a tidal wave

If you’re the leader of the revolution, it’s incumbent upon you to define that future vision. A good place to start is defining the anti-crap. For example, if you think the tax system is unfair, propose a fairer tax system. If you’re fed up with too much talk and not enough action/building in the entrepreneurship arena in your city (like I am), define a goal of building a culture of less talk and more building. You as the leader must define the end-state.

Light a Spark

Malcolm Gladwell would consider this the tipping point. You need that one seminal event or one influential voice to get the unsure masses to join the mob.

For every really angry person who’s already a member of the mob, there are dozens of others who are mildly disenfranchised/upset but they won’t take action until they know it’s safe. That safety comes in the form of hundreds or thousands of others joining the cause alongside them or some influential voice coming out and saying it’s okay to revolt.

Again, as the leader, you have a responsibility to either be that spark or find someone else who can be one. Recruit a star. Lead a protest. Promote an event that shows people you’re serious about revolution (again, by way of a small revolution example, check out what we’re doing with Wakeup Startup). That spark can detonate the powder keg of discontent which then unleashes your revolution.

If you want to lead that revolution, there’s no reason you can’t.  Just make sure you’re clear about the cause and even clearer about who you are and what you stand for as a leader (which can be learned with a little effort on your part).

You Say You Want a Revolution…

If you’re really fed up about something, you have three choices – suck it up, complain, or do something. The first two are no fun. The third can change the world.

Realize that being a revolutionary comes with a price tag. You could become an outcast. People will call you names. In extreme cases, you’ll get shot. The pile of crap you seek to tackle must be worth the price you’re willing to pay (and that you ask members of the mob to pay). If the prize isn’t big enough, you’ll quickly find yourself standing alone in front of 1,000 Redcoats with muskets. If the prize is big, however, you’ll have 10,000 compatriots running those Redcoats off your shores.

Are you a revolutionary? Are you willing to lead the next revolution? Because there are plenty of causes in need of a leader like you…

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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If you’re passionate about REALLY building startups and creating an entrepreneurial culture that says less and does more, come join our new little revolution here in Columbus called Wakeup Startup.

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