A Front Row Seat to Leader Evolution

 It’s Time to Raise the Flag

People get ready
There’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage
You just get on board.

— Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

We all encounter heart-breaking tragedies.

I remember my Dad’s last breath and my Mom’s lifeless face when we got to the nursing home at 4am. I remember the moment we took my brother off life support. All sad and life-changing moments, but not unexpected. Call the relatives. Arrange the funerals. Food. Eulogies. Obituaries. Insurance companies. Wills. Lawyers. Lots of stuff. Lots of sadness. Grieve. Do your best to move on.

And then there are those tragedies that numb our souls and empty our hearts.

The ones that lower the flag.

Like the day President Kennedy was shot. Scary as hell.
The President of the United States? Schools cancelled. National day of mourning. Rider-less horse. Painful.

Lower the flag.

9/11. Shock. Horror. Disbelief. Anguish.

Lower the flag.

Sandy Hook. Kids? Unconscionable. Stunned.

Lower the flag.

Las Vegas.  Damn it.

Lower the flag.

Now Parkland.  

What the hell is going on?

Don’t lower the flag just yet.

I’m pissed.

When did  we start transforming soul-numbing death into silver balloons, flowers, stuffed animals and the obligatory “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”?

Oh yes. I’m cynical. I have a lot of experience. You see, cynicism protects me.

Ok. Lower the flag. Show respect.

Then go about our business. This is easy. From pissed to cynical in two weeks. Our work is done.

But  Parkland? Something’s different.

There is a rawness of misery, grief, sadness.

But there’s something else going on. There’s anger. Real anger. Something’s different when you go from sad to angry.

Sad and angry people are not lower-the-flag-to-half-staff people. They are really pissed and wildly motivated people. These are raise-the-flag people.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the elixir for change.

Who are “these” people?


I’m talking about hormone-raging, sometimes maligned adolescents who think as their IQ’s rise by x, their parents IQ’s drop by 2x. Self-absorbed? Entitled? Egocentric?

Not these teenagers.

Parkland students. How about empowered, connected “kids” with a voice because, like active shooter drills, having a voice is all they’ve every known. One advantage of the selfie culture.

And now they’re going to use their voice in a big way.

Good-bye high school musicals. Hello government hearings. Get ready for meetings with decision makers and influencers of all shapes and sizes.

Think they’re scared? Think they know anything about losing friends, teachers, sisters, brothers, family members, maybe even their own lives?  Damn straight. Firsthand.

Think they’ll get their butts kicked? Eat dirt? Be misled, get stalled and strung along?

Count on it.

What’s to lose that hasn’t been lost. Worried about getting their butts kicked – piece of cake.

Think they’re young, inexperienced, naive about the ways of the world? Think they lack street smarts and political savvy?

Think again. These Parkland students are angry and committed. They’ll get knocked down and get back up.
Bring it on. Think. Act. Learn. Adjust. Rinse and repeat.

They’ll learn the ropes, play the game, get some wins under their belts.


They’ll change the game. That’s just flat out cool.

In time –  could be soon- they will kick some major league butt. I say capitalize on the brawn that comes with youth, build the brains, and go like hell.

I am not taking a position on gun control, school safety, law enforcement protocols, politics, tribes, elected officials, what it means to be patriotic or the loss of innocence.

I am taking a position on these students who are poised for great things and forced to grow up in a matter of hours.

Parkland students. Activists. Game changers.

Using tragedy as a catalyst. Generating a blast furnace of energy bigger and more powerful than any one politician, policy or position.

Isn’t the devil in the details, you ask?

I say, you bet. Buckle up and hang on for the ride.

Me? I’m ready. Ditch the cynicism. Teach these students, their colleagues, the “young and restless” how to lead.

Give them the techniques. Make them practice and apply them. Coach them. Make sure they learn from their mistakes.
Insight, baby. Insight.

Use the anger (theirs and mine) as fuel. Harness it. Focus it.

Give them confidence. Give them permission. Challenge them to move into leadership positions.

Show them how to influence others, sell their ideas, get buy-in and commitment, build critical mass, build coalitions, achieve quick wins, lead change.

Want to change the world?


Now go make a difference.

It’s Time.

Time to raise the flag.

What about you?

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