Optimistically I watch as more nations across the globe confront  mass protests because I think it is a signal that democracy is alive and working. A sign that people feel their voice is important and needs to be heard (whether it is about the rising costs of public services  in Brasil or about personal freedom restrictions in Turkey). On not so optimistic days, I feel a sense of dread watching the way in which protests are being handled or treated by those who lead. While I do not resemble the demographic of young, impatient, e-connected profile of the average protestor today (I am in my 50s and my ‘battle scars’ have tempered my demands to have complete say over how I live), I was once an angry student protestor in the 70s.  And we did bring about change including cutting short a bloody war in Vietnam, stopping the full-scale sell off of public assets or national heritage buildings we were told had to make way for progress. Public protests have been important for many centuries and will no doubt continue to erupt even in countries so far spared through this recent wave. It will continue as long as those who lead lose touch and governments lose the art of listening and learning.  This failure to create political structures that enable listening will result in ‘protest politics’ becoming main stream politics.  Vilifying and demonising those who only ask for a voice is not a clever way forward. How did we lose the ability to listen – to listen in order to learn about the reality of those who are being led? How did our democratic institutions become so fossilised, so bureaucratic, so hijacked by lobby groups that we lost our ability to listen to those who mattered? The lessons in this for organisations are clear. The rise of  ‘protest politics’ can also emerge in organisations if we fail to revitalise them, embed new ‘co-governing’ or ‘co-ownership’ principles.  Ignoble change for those who lead our organisations can come quickly and brutally or it can be slow and quiet. In either case the outcome will be painful for those who lead. There is a repeating pattern that leads to such change. First, as the leader, we create ‘systems of meaning’ that confirm to ourselves we are right, then we make choices to justify our past choices, then we lock ourselves into a set of beliefs that creates dangerous convictions we and our supporters never question,  then we stay in like-minded communities which further entrenches our beliefs and then we wave off dissenters through the loudness of our dismissals (telling ourselves they are misinformed, misled or plain wrong, or in the case of Turkey blaming foreign...