Do you want to start a project or a nonprofit? Do you believe in something greater than yourself? Do you have a fire within you to create change?
People who answer “Yes!” to these questions know they have the desire to lead, but they may not know the steps to take. In Terri Broussard Williams’s book Find Your Fire, which is scheduled for re-release in September 2021, she profiles individuals whom she calls “firestarters” and “movement makers.” By sharing their journeys, the book allows readers to see themselves in the stories and learn strategies for their own work.
Women featured in the book include an activist, a social entrepreneur, and a politician, among others. While the 13 leaders range in age, geographic location, cultural backgrounds and issue-area, they all have faith and fortitude – characteristics Williams writes is needed to create change. Personal stories, along with Williams’s own words and advice in the final chapters, offer inspiration and next steps for both emerging and seasoned leaders.
“You don’t need a pedigree to create change,” Williams said in an interview with LeaderStories. “All you need is a good heart, good intention, and good work ethic.”
Along with her book, Williams consults with clients on leadership, bringing 20 years of expertise in fundraising, policy, and communications. Her website has an inspiration section with a #MovementMaker blog, podcast, and TV episodes, where she has discussions with guests about building movements.
In our conversation with Williams, she offered insight and advice for changemakers to keep in mind as they build their organizations.
Even with the best intentions, movements can be messy, Williams said. Personalities and egos can get in the way of growth, and seasoned leaders may not be open to new ideas from younger, junior-level staffers.
Movements can fail to achieve their goals when leaders let ego drive decision-making. “I worked on a movement where the leader insisted on having a press conference at several milestones. The message became watered down with each press conference,” she said. “At some point community leaders started to say that the leader wanted to have a presser because he liked seeing himself on T.V.."
Williams said it’s important to be honest about the challenges an organization is facing and leaders who have been at the table for too long should find ways to “pass the baton.” This will benefit both the organization and the leader.
“Move from the dance floor to the balcony, and listen,” she said. “Not only will you get rest, but you might pick up some things that will fuel your fire again.”
Listening, she said, also allows leaders to assess what else is happening in their field so they don’t duplicate efforts. It develops community as leaders learn more about the people they serve. And it allows people to remember humility.
She recommends that leaders “double down and be a listener, be a cultural ambassador” in order to move their movements forward.
“Check yourself, and check your soul to ensure that you're doing the work that is needed, and not the work that always makes you feel good,” she said.
In her consulting work, Williams helps leaders rediscover “their why” as they plan goals to grow their companies.
Taking time to reflect and reconnect to their passion is not usually a focus for busy leaders, especially in a culture that ties achievements and success to productivity.
It was through Williams’s own personal experience that she discovered the value of refocusing.
“Once I became more still, I found my stride,” Williams said, referring to a time when a head concussion required her to “pause” and take a time out for healing. Before, she too was very driven by goals and deadlines.
But her time out of the office gave her space to develop her book, and it allowed her to revisit her own fire within. She learned, “Things are not on my timeline. I am here to be of service.”
Terri Broussard Williams is an award-winning community servant who inspires others to give back. Throughout her accomplished career as a broadcast journalist, government relations expert and social purpose lobbyist, and nonprofit leader, Terri has leveraged her public and community service to positively impact millions of lives. Today, in addition to her job, Terri is focused on paying it forward—encouraging and building up others who want to make their own movements through her blog, terribwilliams.com/movementmakercollective/.