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Wael Ghonim’s Leadership Moment

One person can always make a difference.

A thirty-year era of repression, “stability” and fear ended last week after eighteen days of protests by ordinary Egyptians. Millions took to the streets in what has been called a leaderless rebellion. One of the most thrilling aspects of the revolution is that it was carried out by millions of ordinary people; as one person called them: “heroes with no names.” There was no strongman who organized a putsch and seized power.

Yet even a mass movement inevitably requires a voice, and one of the most eloquent voices is Wael Ghonim, whose interview on Dream TV helped to reenergize the protests when the regime was hoping that they would run out of steam.  That riveting interview was Ghonim’s leadership moment, when his eloquence, deep conviction and courage came together to make a real difference.

If you can take the time, do yourself a favor and watch the entire interview.

In the interview, the first thing Ghonim says is that he is no hero. He gives all credit to those who were in Tahrir Square, and especially to those who died in the protests. (Of course the only reason he was not in the square with them is that he was handcuffed and blindfolded for twelve days in the custody of State Security.) In a way, he’s right: the regime could have easily ignored one brave but lonely voice if there were not hundreds of thousands of people willing to act. But, I’m reminded of what Churchill said: “It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart; I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

Wael Ghonim’s did not roar in his interview; it was far different in tone than that. Yet it was just as strong and effective as Churchill’s rhetoric. (In the next post we’ll see what made it so powerful.) But the main point is that, when he was called upon by circumstance to speak up and make a difference, he rose to the occasion.

The key theme of this blog is that one person can always make a difference. Probably none of us will ever have an opportunity to change an entire nation, but we will inevitably come across moments when we will decide that change has to come, and that it won’t come unless we make it happen. They may be in your community, your company or your personal life, but those moments will come.  When they do, will you be ready?

For anyone who has wanted to change something, just remember the words of Wael Ghonim: “The only barrier is fear.”

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