Dov was recently asked by Fortune Magazine to contribute his picks for its 2017 World’s Greatest Leaders list. While he offered many suggestions, Fortune rightfully featured one of his strongest recommendations: the National Co-Chairs of the Women’s March—Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Carmen Perez. As Dov shared with the magazine, the march stands out as a “remarkable example of leadership that eschews ‘command and control’ in favor of ‘connect and collaborate,’ two-way over one-way conversation, and wielding moral over formal authority.”
This kind of uplifting and inspirational leadership is so desperately needed in our fractured and tumultuous world. Today, so many of us feel mentally disoriented and morally unmoored, unsure of where to place our trust and skeptical of authority. That the Women’s March took place in this environment on such a broad scale—with over 3 million in attendance across the country—is a testament to its leaders’ vision of a peaceful and meaningful protest. Such demonstrations are only productive, authentic, and constructive when they include sustainable goals based on deep contemplation, shared values, and wide-ranging conversations.
The Women’s March met all of these criteria, which is no easy feat in our current age of protest.
From the “angry mob” at Middlebury and Berkeley to the boycotts against companies like New Balance and Starbucks, it seems that the act of protesting has hit a kind of critical mass. By now, we’ve all experienced it, and it often looks something like this: Something eventful happens somewhere in the world, and someone takes offense. Our phone pings, and at an instant’s notice, our sense of injustice is enflamed and our moral outrage is ignited. With a few taps, we react–with a re-tweet, a share, a Facebook Like, by adding our name to a petition–all while others react to our reaction. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of others become involved in the same process, until suddenly some other issue comes along and the vicious cycle begins again.
Of course, our age of protest hasn’t just led to heightened tensions on social media platforms and college campuses. Today we face an alarming number of deep divisions and are experiencing a diminishing sense of unity. Indeed, our recent presidential election is sure to be remembered more as a protest than a contest, with the majority of Americans voting against rather than for a candidate. Perhaps not since the Civil War have we strayed so far from the United States’ shared project, which is so fundamental to its identity and purpose that it is emblazoned on every dollar bill; that of e pluribus unum, or out of many, one.
The Women’s March offered a welcome nod in this direction and proved that as Americans we can still come together under a shared purpose and unified vision. Those who orchestrated the Women’s March (the National Co-Chairs, along with Teresa Shook and others) sought to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” Armed with an inclusive and bold mission statement aimed at the “protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country”, and a set of “unity principles,” just a handful of people inspired millions of others to stand up peacefully for the rights of women in this country, and in turn, for human rights everywhere.
It is worth noting that one of the most powerful acts of leadership seen in recent times didn’t come from an individual bestowed with a title and the trappings of formal authority, but from a group of women whose moral vision inspired millions of others to enlist in a shared mission. And at a time when everybody seems to be shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, the Women’s March stands out as an authentic protest whose full impact will surely reveal itself for years to come. Hopefully the National Co-Chairs represent a new trend, and their actions will set a powerful precedent of leadership for others to follow.