It began as Occupy Wall Street in New York, and now it's going global -- inspiring protests around the world planned this weekend from Detroit to London, and Frankfurt to New Zealand. Thousands are fed up, not taking it anymore and are taking it to the streets.
But which streets? When? And for how long? How does an angry, seemingly disorganized and leaderless group of people ever get anything done?
The angry protestors who call themselves the “99 percent” have started a movement, but to many it’s unclear what their demands are except to shine a spotlight on the “greedy and corrupt” rich -- especially bankers -- and politicians who have lost touch with the people. Critics of the largely unstructured demonstration point to examples like Detroit's take on the matter: protesters had planned for their city's occupation and march to begin today, but as of late last night, no permit had been filed.
But the group likely has more leadership than meets the eyes, says Violent Arnold, who heads Company Works, a multicultural leadership development firm in St. Paul, Minn.
“Every group that comes together has some form of leadership,” Arnold says. “But the current leadership of top-bottom is not working, and that’s why they’re protesting. We are looking for the organized group being the CEO, middle management and workers. If you walked into one of these groups, the leaders are there; you just won’t be able to identify them.”
In the book, “The Horizontal Organization: What the Organizations of the Future Actually Looks Like and How it Delivers Value to Customers,” Frank Ostroff explained more American organizations may begin looking more like this movement, where no leader is apparent.
The protestors may be able to get some goals accomplished, but with so many people coming together from all walks of life with different viewpoints and no apparent agenda, it all can quickly come unglued, says Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist in New York City.
“Horizontally-structured organizations or movements have the best morale because there’s less red tape and less leadership. That’s the way most small organizations start off,” he says. “They can reach people through the Internet, but if you don’t have some sense of what the staged goals are, you can start to have spin-offs that can carry the agenda to smaller, more organized vertical structures that will feed off the general anger.”
Psychologically speaking, these protests are mentally healthy -- whether they accomplish anything or not, Manevitz says.
“Unemployment rates have remained high, and people are feeling demoralized, despondent and desperate. They need an outlet,” he says. “If people turn their feelings inward, they get depressed. If they turn it outward, they get angry. Right now, there’s this healthy pro-activism in protest. Where it’s going remains to be determined.”