Citizen Action Monitor

So you want to grow your team into a movement. Here’s how —

No 16 Posted by fw, May 29, 2010

Ever wondered how to grow your citizen action team into a movement? Click on the video link below and let TED host Derek Sivers show you how it’s done in under three minutes.

And there’s a bonus — smiles are guaranteed. In fact, I defy anyone not to smile and maybe even experience a warm and cuddly feeling all over.

Don’t bother taking notes. I’ve captured the main points below. Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the show.

Here’s the video – Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

Recipe for building a movement: Take one "lone nut" . . .

Here are the main points –
  • Being a leader requires courage. The courage to be daringly different, to stand out in a crowd, to be a “lone nut”, as Sivers says, and to risk being ridiculed
  • Notice in the video how the leader does what it takes to make it easy for others to follow – well, in this case, easy for anyone who isn’t too old or too stodgy to dare emulate the lone nut
  • Sure enough, a first follower does join in. Two key points: the first follower shows others how to follow, and by being a follower he has just made the lone nut into a true leader.
  • Observe how the leader physically embraces the first follower. More importantly he immediately mirrors the movements of the follower. The symbolic significant of this cannot be overestated: first, it signifies the leader’s acceptance of the follower as an equal; and second, it says, “Hey. This is not about me. This is about US!”
  • Watch the first follower signal others to join in. The lone nut leader has made it easy for the follower to become an underestimated kind of leader in his own right.
  • Following the first follower’s lead, a second follower joins in.  The two have become three. And as the old saying goes, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.” And that, my friends, is news.
  • A leader acting alone cannot grow a movement. For the three to grow into a movement, there needs to be a public event that creates a stir. An event that makes news. It’s the action of the first two followers that make this newsworthy, that makes others sit up and take notice. When this happens, new followers follow the example of the first followers and not of the leader.
  • Watch the tide turn. As more people join in it becomes less risky for others to follow. A momentum builds. A few become the many. A tipping point is reached. Voila! A movement is born.
  • The many new followers won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed, but if they hurry they will be part of the in-crowd. And that’s a motivator. We’re social creatures who like to be part of the in-crowd.  Remember this — what people may be reluctant to do on their own, their hesitation lessens when they see others joining in.
  • Now it’s the people who are not part of the movement who stick out like sore thumbs, who are at risk of being ridiculed.
Sivers underscores three important leadership lessons —
  1. Nurture your first few followers as equals to emphasize that it’s all about the movement, not the leader
  2. The biggest lesson is that leadership is over-glorified. It’s the first follower who has the power to transform the courageous “lone nut” into a potential leader.
  3. If you really care about starting a movement, the next time you find a lone nut doing something outstanding, have the guts to stand up and join in. Show others how to follow.

I know what you’re thinking: “If only it were this easy.” Following some “lone nut” doing a silly dance at a public concert, or whatever, is one thing, but trying to get people to join a global warming movement . . . now that’s a stretch. But the lesson remains the same: remember, the first challenge for anyone who dares to be a leader is to make it easy for others to follow. And I’ll leave you to figure that one out.

Nobody said being a leader would be easy. Perhaps a good place to start is with William James’ “Act as if . . .” quote: “Act as if  what you do makes a difference. It does.”


  • Thanks to Rob Hopkins for posting the How to start a movement video on his website, which is where I first discovered it.
  • About TED. This video clip was first posted on TED, which began in 1984 as a conference bringing people together from three worlds – Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED). Today TED is multifaceted, and its website is home of the award-winning TEDTalks videos with holdings of more than 700 titles.

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2010 by in community building, leadership and tagged .
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