Hint: It Brings Out Your Very Best

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Frances Fox Piven, an elderly former professor and far-left activist, stood before a small group of the protestors currently involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” event. Piven, who in younger days espoused (seriously) a plan to “collapse the system” in America under the weight of big-government entitlements, is something of an icon to the Left. And now her comrades are closer than ever to achieving the goals she’s worked for during her career.

As she addressed the gathering, she didn’t (as far as I heard) talk about any content, or deliver any ideas, or put forth any argument. What Professor Piven delivered were more like the sort of invocations or prayers you hear in church. And the group, in church-like call-and-response style, repeated after her, word-for-word. It sounded like chanting. Frankly, it sounded monotone and resigned, like a group of zombies.

If you read the professor’s work from decades ago, you learn that she was for replacing the American free-market system of capitalism with collectivism and statism, little unlike the systems tried in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. But I haven’t heard her talking about that these days. At least not with this crowd. Her only exhortations to the Wall Street group have been about pulling the current system down… no mention of what she’d have in its place.

I’ll bet there are plenty of protestors occupying Wall Street today who’d describe Frances Fox Piven as an inspirational leader. I don’t see it. I see her as an agitator, nothing more. Why? Because every time someone sticks a microphone in the face of one of her occupying followers, they’ll tell you what they’re against (“everything,” as one young man said)… but generally, they don’t know what they’re for.


The line is sometimes fuzzy between inspirational leadership and run-of-the-mill agitation. When leaders stand on soap boxes and deliver passionate speeches, the words and tone often sound the same. But to me, the difference between agitation and true inspirational leadership is often found over time. If you follow something, and it makes you a better person, it was inspirational leadership. If it brings out your less desirable qualities, it probably wasn’t.

Inspirational leadership nourishes your inner Entrepreneur – the part of you that wants to take risks, be creative, build something new, open opportunities for yourself and others, and take care of those around you. Many Entrepreneurs start a business and build wealth. In contrast, agitation brings out and feeds your inner Victim – the part of you that wants to blame others, be destructive, criticize, grab what you can (because you’re entitled to whatever you can get), and expect to be taken care of. Many Victims sit in unproductive protest, today in places like Wall Street.

If it’s all about what you’re supposed to be against, it’s agitation. If it’s more about what you’re for, it could be inspirational leadership. If it incites you to attack people and institutions, it’s probably agitation. If it invites you to stand up in defense of people and institutions, or for your deeply-held values and principles, it’s probably inspirational leadership.

As you follow along, if you increasingly like the person you are and the person you’re becoming, it’s inspirational leadership. If you start doing things of which you’re not proud, it isn’t. And that’s the bottom line: inspirational leadership leads you to your best self, over time. Anything that leads you to something less, even if it isn’t your absolutely-worst self, falls short of true inspirational leadership.

So if, like many of my clients, you aspire to be an inspirational leader, think about what you’re trying to bring out of your followers. Inspire their inner Entrepreneurs, so that they can win the struggle against their inner Victims (a struggle we all face). Talk about positive values and principles, and avoid negative complaints about the world we all have to deal with (complaining won’t change the world in a good way, but inspiration might). Be for something, not just against everything. Defend the good more than you attack the bad. Be your best self, in word and deed, and invite others to do the same.

Today, on Wall Street (and every street), there are two types of people. All see The Street as in need of repair. Some are working on The Street… some are just occupying it.

Which will you choose to be today?


 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at http://www.caym.tv/18812Anyone wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at http://shop.enivausa.com/239824Michael and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at http://michaelhume.net
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