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10 Things Your Org Can Do Right Now To Give the Progressive Movement a Chance to Win

Do something. Quit complaining. Suppress your cynicism. And cancel half your meetings.

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Progressive leaders are stressed, often beleaguered, besieged by requests for their time and focus. Non-profit leaders spend most of their time either raising money or worrying about money. Union leaders still have lots of money (though much less than before) but they face an institutionalized hostile environment, dwindling memberships and a relationship with most elected officials in which they are routinely taken for granted, often in the most cavalier manner.

Elected officials spend 40% of their time raising money and give nothing back to the organizations that got them elected. Stressed, themselves, by a cynicism born of the power of money in politics, they have little time to think, nurture their progressive instincts or read.

In broader terms, progressives have been losing or playing defense for so long that we call scrappy fight-back campaigns “victories.” (For example, Ohio’s governor takes away collective bargaining, even for police and firefighters, the union and their allies fight back and win, and we call it a progressive victory—no matter that the right-wing has taken millions of dollars out of play for the next campaign, in much the same way that, in boxing, body punches set the victim up for the eventual head shots.)

We know a lot about what needs to be done in the long term:

a) Change campaign finance.

b) Build a formidable progressive infrastructure that is large, well-funded, and connected.

c) Engage and develop new and under-developed constituencies such as working women, Latinos, African Americans, and young people.

d) Develop large numbers of new leaders.

e) Use our deeper and wider power base to do big things, such as stop climate change, reverse our gross income inequality and make quality, affordable education available to everybody.

But what can you do now, right now, that would make a huge difference in expanding your effectiveness as a leader and strengthen your organization and the progressive movement?

There’s no need to wait.

No one is going to recruit or anoint you to do these things. You’re guaranteed to make mistakes. But get in the spirit of the Joseph Heller novel, Do Something , and, well, do something. Quit complaining. Suppress your cynicism, that most diabolical progressive affliction that keeps you from bringing your whole self to your work and life.

Below are 10 things you can do in the next month that will start a shift in your thinking, your daily experience on the job, the people with whom you spend your time, and what you do. Informing these suggestions are my 40 years of experience in developing over 5,000 leaders, direct experience in dozens of progressive organizations, and advancing age, which gives me the freedom to say what I really think.

1) Take time off. Your time is simultaneously precious and overrated. It is precious in that it is one way you have to express what you value, what you care about (the only other way being how and where we spend our money). So every time you attend a bullshit meeting or conference you have devalued yourself.

I have had dozens of friends who have had heart attacks, cancer, or other serious diseases. All of them changed the way they worked when they were able to work again. And almost to a person, they told me that they have experienced zero loss in productivity upon their return to a more human and humane way of working.

Don’t wait for your body to force you to change.

You time, however, is also overrated when you think you have to be “on” or “there” all the time. If you have even done a halfway decent job of delegating, you have time to take off. Even if you have no one to whom to delegate, you still have time to take time off.