Lesson 1: Getting Started

Participants in the Instructor-Led Course:

Before the first class session, please read the materials on this page and complete the assignment.

Click here to watch George Washington University’s Kathleen Schafer give the

Class Introduction

In this course, you will:

Explore who you are as a leader.

Discover your strengths.

Learn how to identify your goals and create change.

Click here to download the course syllabus.

Click here to download the course readings and resources.

Click here and here to watch George Washington University’s Kathleen Schafer discuss

Launching Your Leadership


Your leadership must be rooted in your core values and identity.

Remain true to yourself; connect your actions to your values and identity, and communicate from this vantage point to others. This will draw affinity and support to your cause.

Leadership in Action

Ask yourself:

What needs do you see in your community?

What strengths do you bring?

Why do you want to lead?

Leadership Principles at Work: Stay true to your core values and identity

Cesar Chavez’s leadership was rooted in his dedication to exploited farm workers. He was shy and not a great public speaker, but he didn’t need to change who he was to attract supporters; he gained support through his conviction and the strength of his values. Even after he became famous, he continued living a modest lifestyle of self-sacrifice. In 1968, he fasted to reaffirm his principles of nonviolence, and workers came from around the country to support him and affirm his vision.

He was far from a great public speaker, but even that became a virtue. Listeners warmed to his lack of bombast. They loved his unvarying worker’s uniform: worn Levis, open-necked cotton shirts, scuffed hush puppies…[The national media praised him] but the man kept his bearings. Our strength lies in the workers, he’d remind his staff. Never think that we are the union; the farm workers put us here.1

Read more about Cesar Chavez’s leadership…

Click here and here to watch George Washington University’s Kathleen Schafer discuss

Preparing to Lead


You are unique in your particular combination of talents, strengths, and passions.

Recognize your strengths. What do other people compliment you on?

You must be comfortable with your identity as a leader. You don’t need to change who you are to be a successful leader.

When you are comfortable with yourself, others will feel comfortable with you.

Rediscover who you are.

At 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

If you could do what you wanted to all day and get paid for it, what would you do? Why?

If you could change one thing in the world, what change would you create? Why? Please consider this question carefully, as it provides the foundation for the rest of your work in this course.

Leadership in Action

Clearly identify your three key talents.

Identify ways of communicating what you offer, in the context of what you want to change.

Ask for feedback from others.

Are others receiving the message you want to deliver?

Leadership Principles at Work: Take advantage of your unique strengths

In 2005, Asma Maria Andraos was a successful events organizer living in Beirut, Lebanon. She had never been interested in politics or activism, but when a car bomb killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, Asma was motivated to take action. She realized that her events planning career had given her a unique set of skills she could use in an activism campaign:

Event planning teaches you to be organized, and you have to be very organized when you are managing people, when you are under stress on a day-to-day basis. Understanding of how the media operate was instrumental. Make sure that you quickly recognize who the other people who look good on the camera and speak the language well are, and identify them first, so that whenever a television is coming over, you know who to send…That is part of my normal business, [so] of course I put it to use as well.2

With this particular skill set, Asma helped organize a sit-in at Martyrs’ Square in Beirut and a petition at Hariri’s gravesite calling for the withdrawal of Syrian military forces from Lebanon.

Read more about Asma Andraos’ leadership…

What is Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

Gaining a better understanding of your personality can help give you new insight into your strengths and weaknesses and tell you what leadership style may come most naturally to you. The Myers-Briggs personality type system classifies human personalities into sixteen different types based on four variables:

Extraversion vs. Introversion – An Extrovert is outgoing and needs regular interaction with other people; an Introvert tends to be quieter and feels drained after time around large groups of people.

Sensing vs. Intuition – Someone with a Sensing preference prefers to make decisions based on concrete data; someone more Intuitive trusts their intuition to think of abstract possibilities.

Thinking vs. Feeling – Someone with a Thinking preference makes decisions based on logic and reason; someone with a Feeling preference is moved by their emotions or subjective beliefs.

Judging vs. Perceiving – People with a Judging preference like everything to be neat, organized, and scheduled ahead of time; those with a Perceiving preference want to stay flexible and keep their schedules open.

Based on these variables, there are four main temperament types:

Artisans (SPs – Sensing Perceiving) – Practical, adaptable, and friendly. Their leadership strength is tactical intelligence: adapting to changes in the moment.

Guardians (SJs – Sensing Judging) – Hard-working, thorough, and conservative. Their strength is logistical intelligence; they understand how to make things happen.

Rationals (NTs – Intuitive Thinking) – Analytical, creative, and efficient. Their strength is strategic intelligence – inventing new ways to improve the way things are done.

Idealists (NFs – Intuitive Feeling) – Sympathetic, insightful, and humane. Their strength is diplomatic intelligence: working with others and showing us where we need to go in society.

Keep in mind that these classifications are not meant to “put you in a box,” limit you, or give you a definitive judgment about who you are. They can, however, give you new insight into your personality and ways to develop your strengths. You can take a Myers-Briggs test here to determine what your personality type is.

The following resources provide descriptions of the sixteen personality types:


Personality Page


Click here and here to watch George Washington University’s Kathleen Schafer discuss

Why Change?


Look past the problems you face to see hope and opportunity. Passion is what gives us the ability to do this.

Don’t let self-doubt hold you back from pursuing your passion.

Let your passion guide your actions, and it will be easy for you to sustain your activities and allow others to connect with your work.

Leadership Principles at Work: Follow your passion!

Jody Williams, founder of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, began her activism work with uncertainty about whether she could really pursue her passion:

When I was approached with the idea of trying to create a landmine campaign, we were just three people in a small office in Washington, DC in late 1991. I had more than a few ideas about how to begin a campaign, but what if nobody cared? What if nobody responded? But I knew the only way to answer those questions was to accept the challenge.3

By accepting that challenge, Williams expanded from “three people in a small office” to an international network that rallied support for the Mine Ban Treaty from 122 countries in a span of just six years.

Read more about Jody Williams’ leadership…

Click here and here to watch George Washington University’s Kathleen Schafer discuss

What Change Do I Want to Create?


Don’t feel that you have to create large, sweeping change immediately; you can start by making small changes where you are right now.

Identify your circle of influence in your community. This will help you find where you can take your first step towards change.

What is your goal? Make sure it’s something achievable with clear parameters and a timeline. Then identify the small steps that will help you achieve it.

What would success look like?

Make sure you can clearly and concisely describe your vision for change so you can quickly communicate it to people.

Don’t spend a lot of energy trying to convince people to support you; just ask people to join you, and if some don’t want to, let them go and take the people who are interested in helping. Others will come!

Write a short vision statement, share it with your friends, and get their feedback.

Choosing Your Goals and Objectives

First, make sure your goal is achievable and tied to a timeline. Next, determine what smaller steps will help you achieve your goal. These steps will be your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions when setting your objectives:

Do you have both short- and long-term objectives?

Short-term objectives will keep you and your team motivated as you work towards your goal. Long-term objectives will help you keep your ultimate vision in mind.

Do you have objectives that both look outward and inward?

Objectives that look outward aim to influence decision-makers who can effect change: government, the media, and other powerful institutions. Objectives that look inward focus on developing yourself, your team and making your campaign more efficient.

Do you have objectives focused on action at multiple levels?

When looking outward at decision-makers, you should focus your objectives on multiple levels: local, national, and/or international. When looking inward at your campaign, think about how your objectives will affect different levels of the community: individuals, communities, and/or civil society in general.

Read more about setting objectives here.

Writing Your Vision

Your vision statement should encapsulate the reason you have chosen to become an activist. It should describe the change you want to create, no matter how big or small. It is your vision that will sustain you and keep you motivated as you strive to create change.

Leadership Principles at Work: Let your vision guide you

Wael Abbas, an Egyptian blogger, holds a vision for a democratic Egypt where civil liberties and rights are respected.

I am a regular Egyptian who wants my country to be better. I want to see transfer of power, democracy, freedom, and freedom of opinion and expression.4

Of course, Abbas cannot achieve all of this on his own. But he works towards this change through his blog activity. He has posted videos and photos documenting government repression of political protests, sexual harassment in Cairo, election fraud, the assault and torture of political dissidents, and gruesome incidents of police brutality. Through it all, he says:

All I wanted was for my country to change, to become more democratic, and to recognize the basic rights of its citizens. So I focused my work on making people aware of what was going on and helping them understand their rights.5

Read more about Wael Abbas’ leadership…

Assignment 1 – for Participants in the Instructor-Led Course:

1. Take the Myers-Briggs test online.

2. Make a post in the forum in which you:

Describe your opinion of the test and its results. Do you think the test is accurate? Useful?

Summarize your leadership style within the Myers-Briggs type theory.

List your leadership strengths, and summarize areas and/or ways to improve your personal effectiveness based on the Myers-Briggs type theory.

3. Afterwards, provide feedback to at least one other person’s post. You can:

Discuss the Myers-Briggs theory.

Comment on how your leadership style relates to theirs.

Give them additional ideas on ways to improve their personal effectiveness.

1 Coplon, Jeff. Cesar Chavez’s Fall from Grace (part 1). Village Voice. 14 Aug. 1984.

2 Andraos, Asma. Interview with the Online Activism Institute. 2008.

3 Williams, Jody. “When Ordinary People Achieve Extraordinary Things.” All Things Considered, 9 Jan. 2006.

4 El-Jesri, Manal. “Free For All.” Egypt Today 28:2 (Feb. 2007).

5 Abbas, Wael. “Acceptance speech at ICFJ award dinner.” YouTube, 19 Dec. 2007.

Participants in the Instructor-Led Course: Before the first class session, please read the materials...
Participants in the Instructor-Led Course: Before the second class session, please read the materials...
Participants in the Instructor-Led Course: Before the third class session, please read the materials...
Participants in the Instructor-Led Course: Before the fourth class session, please read the materials...




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