In this speech he made at TED11, he talks about the Egyptian revolution including his specific role.
One of the comments he makes is that in the revolution, there was no single leader, that they were all leaders contributing to the goal of change in Egypt. In Wikipedia, they cite a similar statement that he made:
“Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don’t know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.”
A very interesting concept that makes me think about leadership—can a revolution really occur without true acknowledged leaders? Social media has been acknowledged by Ghonim and others (documented in the slideset below) to be instrumental in mobilizing and inspiring the movement, but you don’t see individual names associated with the movement.
Now, in reality, there were most certainly leaders in the movement as any successful organization has leaders. This quick 3 minute TED speech by Derek Sivers is a classic explanation of the leaders and first followers instrumental in making a movement happen. In Egypt, Ghonim was certainly a leader. Mohamed ElBaradei was, at the minimum, an inspirational leader for the movement as well. But the consensus has been that there isn’t an acknowledged single leader of the the movement.
But the fact that the movement went forward without individuals seeking or demanding the recognition as a primary leader of the movement is an astonishing development. Something I haven’t seen much before signaling perhaps a generational, philosophical, technological, and ideological shift in today’s younger generations.