Leading with Empathy: Tarana Burke and the Making of the Me Too Movement
In 2017, Tarana Burke, founder of the movement against sexual violence known as Me Too was unexpectedly catapulted to international fame. The phrase she had coined to promote a sisterhood of survivors, "Me Too," had become a viral social media hashtag. Within days, Burke went from being a grassroots community organizer to a national icon and the movement she had nurtured for more than a decade in Church basements and school classrooms, erupted into a global rallying cry that brought down the careers of dozens of powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, including Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and many others in more than 80 countries. Soon, she was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people and was awarded the prestigious Ridenhour Prize for Courage, which she shares with luminaries such as John Lewis. To Burke, a reckoning on sexual violence on such a large scale was long overdue, but neither her newfound celebrity nor the growing notoriety of the Me Too movement had ever been part of the plan. This case provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of Burke as a leader from her early days as a community organizer to the years after she had become a household name. Burke's refreshingly honest account of her internal and external dilemmas as she created and sustained a movement to empower survivors of sexual violence, against considerable odds-and despite significant backlash from many quarters-offers important lessons for students of leadership everywhere.