If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.– John Quincy Adams
The word inspiration can be defined as: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation, the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions, or the act of influencing or suggesting opinions.
InnerWill’s newest series, Inspired By, is dedicated to honoring the people and practices that have uplifted and influenced us into who we are and what we do every single day.
“Leadership is a choice, not a title.”
This simple and powerful phrase has become a key message in our practice of Values Based Leadership. It reflects our belief that by living in alignment with the core values you hold most dear, you are able to positively impact the lives of others and help them discover and deepen their own leadership. A single person creates a ripple that can change the world.
I have found the story of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and its three founders, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, to be an inspiring example of this philosophy. The movement itself was borne out of an expression of Love. In a Facebook post in the summer of 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of a young Black man named Trayvon Martin, Alicia Garza sought to express her love for the people she knew would be suffering. Her “love letter” to Black people ended with the words “Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter.” Patrisse Cullors added the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, and a movement was launched, with Opal Tometi joining in to build online platforms to connect people.
From there, the movement caught fire and chapters were rapidly formed across the country – organizers used online platforms to connect and plan actions that were done in person to fight against “the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.”
With such organic and rapid growth, the movement has at times been criticized as being “leaderless.” Its founders prefer to use the term “leader-full” to describe it. Said Garza “New leaders are possible. Everyday people – a Black single mother, a Black transgender woman, a Black immigrant, can do things to change our country, and can be empowered to provide vision, guidance, and other forms of leadership.” She describes a leader as “ordinary people attempting to do extraordinary things.”
Garza, Cullors, and Tometi have been recognized on Fortune magazine’s 2016 list of the World’s Greatest Leaders, and the Black Lives Matter movement was recently awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. But the movement and its co-founders have also faced relentless criticism and challenge. As Garza described
“It’s hard to be a leader when you have to make hard choices and when you have to do what’s right, even though people are not going to like you for it… We can have disagreements without being disagreeable, but it’s important for us to sharpen each other, so that we all can rise.”
I’m inspired by the example of leadership that these courageous women have shown. May we all strive to be – and to inspire – “ordinary people” to “do extraordinary things.”
Who has inspired you? Let us know in the comments, or submit a proposal for a guest blog to firstname.lastname@example.org.