Taking on an activist mindset shifts many aspects. Team members take on a new responsibility along with the culture required to support this new level of activity and results. Leaders will make or break this shift.

Activist leaders need to set more than tone. Activist leaders need to build the stage for as many as possible to perform to their fullest potential.

If engagement is not working, what makes us think activism will?

This is a difficult question. The short answer is a new generation of leaders are entering the workforce. Generation Y or Millennials are exhibiting early traits of taking leadership to a new level of collaboration and results. Other generations who spend the time to learn and think are shifting as well.

The more challenging answer will be deciding when to shift to an activist mindset. As thoughtful and growth-minded leaders make this decision, they will begin to apply the activist perspective to their words, actions, decisions, and choices. The status quo will be disrupted.

If the engagement model isn’t working, is it time to move to a different model?

This is the real question. Leaders must stand up and say “yes” and then lead the shift.

How to lead the shift to activism?activist leader

History contains the stories of many leaders who actively moved people to a new way to think and act. The names that come to mind may be different for you than me. My top-of-mind list includes: Nelson Mandela, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and John Muir. When we try to mix in business leaders to this list, it gets very challenging to do.

It may be time for a new crop of activist leaders to emerge – in business, politics, and community.

Just as certain names come to mind when we think about activist leaders, specific words do as well. These words become much more than a vocabulary for an effective activist leader. Each word is delivered with the substance of real action.

From words to actions to results, an activist leader crafts the platform in which others join to empower the change process.

Ten Activist Leader’s Words of Meaning

Using examples of past activist leaders serve as a guide to what words matter for us to use. The words are not hollow. Certain words are woven into the soulful fabric of activist leaders.


An activist leader has clarity of vision. Clarity is evident in words spoken and actions taken. There is no doubt in why a change is required and why remaining unchanged is impossible. Clarity resonates.


Within the vision, an aspirational tone is sounded. More than tone, the reason behind the direction has a big purpose. The purpose incites other team members to want to do their part and use their talents fully.


Activist leaders have a strategy. Clarity and aspirations motivate but a strategy shines a light on a path in which others can dance with their plans, activities, and results. A strategy creates a high-level how to the motivating why.

Inner Strength.

Activist leaders are confident but not cocky. There is a quiet strength in their presence along with a persistence in their work. Activist leaders are comfortable within and work to instill a similar feeling in others. By doing this, others are comfortable in bringing forth ideas on how to achieve the vision. There is an openness in the strength of all engaged.

Assumes the Best.

Activist leaders assume people are good and want to do their best. Activist leaders do not tolerate laziness. Activist leaders stir the soul of team members to bring their best efforts.


Effective activist leaders will be adaptable. They don’t blow in the wind but they do understand how to change in order to achieve the vision. Stubbornness stunts progress. Positive calibration promotes progress.


Activist leaders are generous with their time but they are efficient in how they spend it. Most resources receive the same treatment. There is a certain economy to what they do. Being extravagant will not set the right tone or values. Focusing on what is essential will keep everyone’s mind and effort diligent on what matters most.


Activist leaders are restless. Some may call it impatience but it is really an energy that radiates and activates others to jump in more fully. Directed restless energy may be a better description, wrapped in a purpose-filled desire to do more in better ways.


Smart activist leaders never do or say anything to compromise their integrity. Trust is the currency which flows through everyone involved. If trust is disrupted, all good efforts quickly drain away.


Activist leaders know the importance of good relationships. More than work relationships are family and community ones. A sense of purpose is evident in how time is spent between the people that matter most. Within each relationship, empathy is present. Compassion is present.

Words Activated

Each word is exemplified by an activist leader. Some words seem old and discussed in years past. However, there is a new era emerging in which the words take on a higher standard of meaning and action. A more fulfilling substance is evident.

The words are not an end in themselves. After the results, an activist leader does not fade away. An activist leader ensures the resulting change is sustained while looking for new opportunities to take the resolution to the next level of impact.

Activist leaders need to enliven the words by their actions. Activist leaders need to stir in others the actions to make each of the words come to life in their own work.

This is the new standard of leadership. This is standard of activist leader.

What others words would you add as a requirement for an effective activist leader?