On September 17, 2011, a protest called Occupy Wallstreet was organized in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district. The protest was initiated by a Canadian activist group. It was the first of many Occupy protests that flowed throughout the world. Their initial purpose was to take a stand against corporate greed, economic inequality, and undue influence of financial services corporations on government. Their slogan, We are the 99%, was in reference to the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.
For months, every time you turned on the news, they were talking about Occupy Wall Street and its spinoff protests. Sounds like it was a success, right? It wasn’t. The reason why it failed is because they didn’t have a leader. Every time someone was interviewed, they were trying to bring light to a different issue. One person was talking about corporate greed, another was talking about racism, and another was talking about gay rights. It seemed like anybody who was fed up with anything showed up and said whatever was on their mind. There was no unified message, no clarity of purpose, no obvious leader, just a group of people in tents taking a stand against… well, that all depends on who you asked. The only reason why I know when it started, where it started, and by who is because I Googled it!!
I am not trying to minimize any individual’s reason for participating. I actually agree with some of what they stood for, I am only providing an example to illustrate the point that just getting people to show up isn’t leadership. You need a clearly defined mission. If you have ever heard me speak, you will often hear me use the word clarity. As a leader, it is important that others know what you stand for and what you expect to accomplish. There is a simple reason why this is so important – Clarity promotes unity. Confusion creates stagnation.
What is your mission? Are you interested in showing the upper management of your organization that you are an up-and-comer? Are you interested in taking a group of disgruntled workers and getting them excited again? Are you looking to develop and lead a team that wins… every time? It doesn’t matter what decisions you have made in the past… the past is the past. Your rearview mirror is smaller than your front windshield for a reason. You may be the newest member of your organization, but you are interested in earning a promotion. If you think you can do it, you can. When I was a probationary firefighter, I used to clean the deputy chiefs office every morning. Although some people may find it demoralizing cleaning toilets, mopping the floor and emptying the waste basket, I used those few moments I spent in that office to visualize myself becoming a chief officer one day. After all, someone had to Step Up, why not me? Why not you? Without a mission, you are not heading in any specific direction, you are just there.
“A group of people marching without a mission are just taking a walk.” ~ Step Up and Lead!