Get Out There and LEAD

At first blush, marketing maven Seth Godin and No Kill advocate and lawyer Ryan Clinton have little in common. They operate in different fields, champion different causes and have widely differing physical personas and personalities. However – after seeing them both speak at the No Kill Conference in Washington, DC, this past weekend, I was awestruck by the similarity of their overall message, which is: LEAD.

Seth Godin recently published a book entitled Tribes, the latest in a line of wildly successful marketing tomes. Tribes outlines the concept of small groups of dedicated, passionate and connected people willing to follow an idea or a belief system.

In today’s society, people are looking for something to believe in; they’re looking for tribes. Seth’s message at his compelling lunchtime address was simple: BE A LEADER. Almost everyone is capable of doing so. Don’t let the lizard brain (as Godin defines it, “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.”) rule you; overcome the fear. Show others the way.

Ryan Clinton is the definition of a leader. He took the lead in Austin, Texas, creating Fix Austin and essentially inciting a citywide No Kill revolution, proving yet again that No Kill communities are possible under any set of circumstances. He and those at Austin Pets Alive fought for five long years, and succeeded. He stood for the voiceless, he endured attacks, ridicule and defamation (ask him about his recent magazine cover) – but he persisted. This is what leaders do.

After his success, Ryan’s message is simple: you don’t need him to come to your city and fix things (as so many ask him to do), YOU are capable of doing so. You are capable of being such a leader.

Leadership does not come without risks … hence why most people simply avoid it. But Seth’s point, and Ryan’s, is that you ARE capable. You can lead. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. What they share is a willingness to do something different; to face the fear (as they say), and do it anyway.

In the No Kill movement, we are a passionate people. We are committed to the cause, committed to lifesaving. We already endure daily battles in attempts to fight entrenched leadership, naysayers and those who carelessly discard the lives of our shelter pets. This is the ideal set of circumstances for breeding leadership.

Nathan Winograd, the movement’s leader and author of its key text, Redemption, outlined a similar concept in his own lunchtime address, when he spoke on leadership. He said the following: “William Shakespeare once wrote that, ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.’ There’s a fourth. Some choose to be great. It is, in the end, a choice. Many great people weren’t destined for greatness. There was nothing in their upbringing that suggested it. There was nothing in their vocation that required it. They might have lived obscure lives. But they made a choice to do great things.”

Other speakers at the conference echoed the same concept. Suzanne Kogut of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA spoke of the “just do it” strategy. Brent Toellner of KC Dog Blog Tweeted the following from a session: “Quit waiting for instructions. No one knows what to do better than you.”

The bottom line? Leaders don’t wait for someone else to do it. When unsatisfied with the status quo, they take steps to change it. All it takes to start a revolution is, in Nathan Winograd’s words, “One person. One moment. One decision.” We’re all capable of such a thing, especially in a movement consisting of so many dedicated advocates.

So, as Seth and Ryan and Nathan and Suzanne and Brent and so many others have inspired us to do, it’s time to LEAD. Our nation’s homeless companion animals are  waiting for us, so let’s just do it. I, for one, hope to rise to the occasion. And lucky for us, we’re even being shown the way. So what’s your first step?

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