Many small business founders and entrepreneurs struggle because they just can't seize the moment. Circumstances put them in a position to disrupt, break out or lead and they...well, they just stand there. Waiting for permission, for someone to tell them what to do, for a plan. Then, poof! The moment's gone and their rival has grabbed the spotlight.
Want to know how to do it right? Watch 17-year-old Marjorie Stoneman Douglas student Delaney Tarr's epic speech. Here's the YouTube video, for reference. A few days after a gunman murdered 17 of her fellow students in Parkland, Florida, she stood at a podium and, with unbelievable poise and power, said the fearless words that adults couldn't. I still get chills:
"We've had enough of thoughts and prayers. We've had enough of 'We're in your consideration.' 'We're going to think about it.' 'We're going to tell you how we feel because we support you so much.' Because we know that that is not true. If you supported us, you would have made a change long ago and you would be making a change now. So this is to every lawmaker out there. No longer can you take money from the NRA. No longer can you fly under the radar doing whatever it is that you want to do. Because we are coming after you. We are coming after every single one of you and demanding that you take action."
That's leadership. Tarr and other students like Emma Gonzalez (the senior with the shaved head) and David Hogg (targeted by conspiracy theorists because his father once worked for the FBI) have, virtually on their own, turned what could have become another impotent "thoughts and prayers" response to a massacre into a national movement to transform the nation's gun laws.
I've argued that leadership isn't earned anymore. It's taken. In the past, leaders were people with Ivy League degrees or West Point commissions. They were c-suite executives who rose through the ranks. They were old enough to drink. Not anymore. Thanks to the 24-7 news cycle and the power of social media, you become a leader by rising to the occasion and saying what needs to be said--what others won't say. You step forward.
That's what Tarr, Gonzalez, Hogg and so many other Stoneman Douglas students did. They called B.S. on "thoughts and prayers." They didn't wait for permission. They didn't listen to the people who said, "It's too soon to politicize this." They didn't respect their elders, because their elders clearly didn't respect them. They went there. They stormed the Florida legislature and put elected officials on notice. They made threats and let the world know they wouldn't be intimidated.
It didn't take months of planning. It didn't require college degrees or crowdfunding or org charts. It took people stepping up in the moment. That's what these kids did. That's what leaders do.
The lesson of Delaney Tarr and the other students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas is that if you want to lead real change, the most powerful thing you can do is perceive the moment, seize it, and act.
Don't worry about being perfect.
Nobody cares if you are, and waiting around for a script and a plan means missing your moment. Take action and do the best you can at the time, and then adapt to whatever happens next. There's nothing wrong with taking advice; the Parkland students had the advice of adults who care about them. But don't let the fear of missteps stop you.
Say what nobody else will.
I doubt Florida legislators had ever heard anyone say to them what Tarr said in that speech, or what other students said in other speeches. Those uncompromising words probably left them terrified. That's the power of speech that's not politically correct or redlined by legal, but speaks truth directly and honestly. That's how to speak if you're trying to lead a movement. If some people are offended, that's their problem.
Take a stand and say, "Move me."
It's an understatement to say that the Parkland students have gotten pushback. But they haven't backed down; if anything, the resistance has made them even more determined. If you're trying to disrupt an industry or threatening conventional thinking, you'll hit resistance--sometimes more intense and angry that you imagined. Expect it. Plan for it. And don't let it shake you. Leaders know they're right and refuse to back down until they win.