Christian Long

Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement

In TED Talks on May 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Extra credit reflection by HERSH T.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Derek Sivers:  How to Start a Movement

We all wonder how Martin Luther King Jr. got started. Or how Mahatma Gandhi got such a big following. These questions are the basic currency of the human race. Because, of course, everyone wants to be famous and everyone wants to say, “Yeah, I started that.” Right? But if so few people have done it, then there must be some trick that we are overlooking or something that makes it limited to those who understand the system.

Well, in Mr. Sivers’ talk, he nails the answer square on its paradoxical head.

Who hasn’t had someone tell them that we all need to be leaders? The teacher you had in high school, or that conference you went to, where the teacher or speaker said that we must all be leaders to get anything done. And have you ever thought that it was just garbage? How can we all be leaders? Who would then follow? Who would then make all of these leaders matter? And so, the leadership itself is overrated. Now, I am not saying that leadership is unnecessary or outmoded; rather I am saying that a true leader is not simply one that leads.

A true leader is one that knows how to follow.

When a leader is starting something they cannot know what the people are going to do or what the people will let them accomplish. The best leader is aware of his incredible dependence upon his followers. If no one followed Mr. King then where would he be? If no one walked with Gandhi on his great salt march then what would he be? The real power a leader has is that of his followers. A leader’s power stems directly from the commitment and focus of his followers. If a leader is without followers he is just another man.

Your followers are your power.

And so, Mr. Sivers says that your first few followers are your most valuable allies. You must nurture and encourage them so that they can slowly increase your base of people. The more people you have a positive impact on, the more people they can tell about you. Which build up in a sort of domino effect leading to the ultimate prize of having a huge following?

However! When a leader recognizes that the people are not following him but what he stands for, then he will have achieved a position that few in the past have achieved. And if he/she does so, then the movement takes on a whole new aura. If you think about it, would you be more willing to follow someone who is famous and knows that everyone worships him? Or a person who is famous and yet, believes that people follow him because of what he stands for? Selflessness is such an attractive quality that often it can override less appealing qualities. Mr. Sivers’ talk is not about leaders however; it is about how to start a movement. And in a movement, the leader should actually want to get lost in the movement.

To start a movement, you must love it.

Think about this scenario. (One that I am very familiar with). If you are at a dance party, and you see that one kid on the floor dancing like he is having a seizure. And you wonder what in the world is going on? Then, you catch a glimpse of the kid’s face and you see just joy and happiness that you feel compelled to dance with him! This type of innocent enrapture with the movement or whatever it is you love, allows the followers you gain to be of a true and absolute type.

Mr. Sivers, you have moved me to start a movement.


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