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If you don’t have leaders, then you won’t have followers…and we can’t have that

November 1, 2011

by Megan Close, Direct Services Coordinator, Sexual Violence Center

What does it mean to lead the movement against sexual violence? Anyone can be a leader; however, it may take some practice. Kouzes and Posner are two well-known researchers of leadership that can assist all of us in identifying key leadership practices.

Practice #1: Model the Way
Kouzes and Posner say that, “people first follow the person, then the plan.” In order to gain allies and momentum in preventing sexual violence, leaders need to show that they’re committed to the cause. It’s not enough to talk about ending oppression. Every day needs to be seen as a new opportunity for us to challenge oppression, use any of our privileges for good, meet people where they’re at, and/or stand up for what matters to us most.

Practice #2: Inspire a Shared Vision
How often do we truly connect with another person? Do we know people’s dreams, hopes, aspirations or values? If the answer is no, then how do we plan to inspire? People won’t get involved if they don’t feel that the vision of the movement or strategy is their own. Get to know people. Find a way to get folks invested!

Practice #3: Challenge the Process
Be original! Remember, there’s room for multiple ideas and strategies in the world. Keep exploring, experimenting, taking risks, and be accepting of failure. The rates of sexual assaults that are committed each year have been steady for decades; so steady that we say sexual violence is a norm. We need to try whatever we can, in order to change this statement.

Practice #4: Enable Others to Act
Hey Leaders, you can’t be the only ones with the answers or the power. Spread it out! Help those ready to follow or lead be strong, capable, and credible. In the end, trust others to continue to spread the vision.

Practice #5: Encourage the Heart
Celebrate those who are dedicated to the cause! Acknowledge everyone’s contributions to the movement and show your appreciation each step of the way!

What makes a leader? This is a question that researchers have spent years studying. I believe that anyone can be a leader, but I also know that without great followers, there wouldn’t be leaders. Followers have their role in the movement too, which includes (but isn’t limited to) holding your leaders accountable, asking questions, and thinking critically. With everyone’s support, we can make a difference. It only seems fitting to end with the vision of an innovative prevention strategy called ‘Green Dot’: Nobody has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.

Get out there and do something! Join the Board of Directors or become a volunteer at the Sexual Violence Center!

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