31: Illuminate: How to Lead a Movement with Nancy Duarte

“The future is a formless void, a blank space waiting to be filled. And then a Torchbearer envisions a new possibility.

Some say being a torchbearer is a burden. Some say it’s a blessing. Either way, those who light the path are the ones who change the world.”

—Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez, Torchbearer’s Calling in Illuminate

What are the key ingredients to leading a movement? How do you motivate fellow travelers to traverse the change process, within themselves and within your organization or community, even when all they want to do is quit? What happens when you hit a natural plateau in the growth cycle? These are the topics I explore in today’s show with Nancy Duarte, master of systems thinking, speech writing, and the subject of her latest book, Illuminate: How to Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols.


Nancy Duarte is a communication expert who has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Wired, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, LA Times and on CNN. Her firm, Duarte, Inc., is the global leader behind some of the most influential visual messages in business and culture. The largest design agency in the Silicon Valley, and 5th largest woman-owned employer, Duarte, Inc. is estimated to have created more than a quarter of a million presentations.

Nancy has 25 years of experience working with global companies and thought leaders, influencing how the world perceives some of the most important brands and entities, including Apple, Cisco, Facebook, GE, Google, HP, TED, Twitter, and the World Bank.


  • Transformation and movements through storytelling

  • The three-act structure of transformation

  • Her process and growth as a writer in creating her new book, Illuminate

  • Torchbearers: those who light the path and change the world

  • “The future is a formless void, and change is hard”

  • All movements start from an impassioned plea

  • The innovation cycle, innovating the s-curve

  • Speeches, stories, symbols, and the importance of ceremony

  • Anatomy of a Venture Scape: Dream, Leap, Fight, Climb, Arrive, (Re)Dream

  • Motivating stories versus warning stories; creating polarity

  • Travelers often face an inner journey—a fight-climb, fight-climb sequence—and have to build resilience. As long as you and your fellow travelers change on the inside, you will keep making change on the outside.

  • Interactive team exercises for getting people on board with organizational change

  • Duarte’s three work streams: resourcing, recognition, and remote work

  • Nancy’s stance on remote work, and the need to be a great self-manager


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