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RunningHead:LEADERSHIPPHILOSOPHY

LeadershipPhilosophy

JanetNavaCardenas
5700LeadershipinEducation1
SeattleUniversity

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Whatisleadership?
MyunderstandingofleadershipcamefromthedissonanceofrealizingthatIhaddifferent
values,tasteinfood,language,economicbackground,andracethatwouldkeepmeatadistance
fromothersinmyclassroom.Thislackofconnectionistheexactthingthatbroughtmeto
selfawarenessandbecamethecoreofhowIrelatemyselftoleadershiproles.LeadershipI
learned,isaprocessandnotaposition(Astin,Helen,AlexanderW.Astin).Thisprocess
broughtmetobelievethatthepurposeofleadershipistoserveacollectivepurposetowhichone
feelsconnectedto.Tobuildonavaluethatisdrivennotbythepromiseofsuccessbutthe
persistenceofcommonvalue.Thisdeepsenseofconnectionwithacollectivepurposeallowsfor
strategyandplanningthatchallenges,tests,andempowersotherswithsimilarpassion,anger,
ideology,joy,orhopetofindcommitmenttoserveapurpose.Theconnectiontothepurposeis
promotesaction.
Aneffectiveleaderisonethatiswillingtostickaroundafterhavingtheirstrategiestested
byfailure.Onewhoispartofthedevelopmentandimplementationofeffectivestrategiesbuilt
bytheirteam.Thatcontinuestopushtheiragendaforwardevenwhenithasnotprovensuccess.
Anindividualthatisawareofthemselvesandofothersandhowtheycomplementanddistortthe
progressionofthegroup.AsreflectedinStokleyCarmichaelsideologyofarevolutionary,I
believethatsimilarlyaneffectiveleadermuststudy.Onemustspendtimelearningand
unlearningthehistoryandthepaststrategiesoftheircontext.Studyingthiscontextishowyou
assesswhathasworked,whathasnot,andhowtomoveforward.
Forexample,aneffectiveleaderinanOfficeofMulticulturalAffairsinastudent
developmentdivisionwouldstudythehistoryofthespace,ofthepeoplewhouseit,themethods

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usedformarketingaswellasthoseusedformoreindividualizedmodelslikeoneonone
support.Thentheywouldusethattoinformwhatpracticestheycontinueimplementingorgetrid
ofandwhatgapstheyneedtofillfortheircurrentcontext.Theprocessoftheleaderisto
developanunderstandingofthemselvesandhowtheyexistwithinaspaceasanindividualentity
andasagroupmember.Movingforward,theyusethatunderstandingtoinfluencethestructure
anddynamicsofthegroup.Thisiseffectiveleadershipbecausetheleaderhasrootedtheir
purposetotheiractionsandtheirgroup.
Inorderforaneffectiveleadertoservetheirpurposetheymustfeelbelonging,have
selfawareness,developanidentity,andbewillingtotakeaction.First,aleadermusthavea
senseofbelongingorconnectiontotheircontext.Thissenseofbelongingpermitstheindividual
tofindcomfortandtrustinthosethattheywillbeworkingwith.Itallowsfordisagreementthat
promptsdiscussionandnegotiationforthecollectivepurpose.Italsoencouragesdoing
somethingthatgivesanindividualpassionanditencouragesthatthecharacteristicsofastrong
leadercanbelearned.Itallowstheunderstandingofleadershiptobeadaptiveandsuggeststhat
anyindividualthatseesthemselvesconnectedtotheirpurposecanbetaughttofulfillaroleof
personalagency,authority,complexity,change,andmoralcourage(DalozParks,p.2).
Second,leadershipisstrengthenedbytheselfawarenessofanindividual.This
selfawarenessishowanindividualfindstheirrelationtoacollectivegroup.Itdoesnotonly
serveanindividualinansweringfulfillingtheirownneedsfromthecollective,itallowsthe
individualtoknowwhentheymuststepuporstepbacktofulfilltheneedsofthelargergroup.
Thisstrategyofselfawarenessandawarenessofothersbreaksdownthewallsthatweare
socializedintowhenworkingwithindividualsofdifferentperspectives,ideas,identitiesand

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walksoflife.Specifically,thisgivesaleadertheemotionalintelligencetobuildrelationships
withotherssothatthelargergroupideasfunctionandmoveforward.
Third,aneffectiveleadermustfindtheirpersonalidentityinordertodevelopasenseof
courage.While
DevelopingaLeadershipIdentity:AGroundedTheory
talksaboutdeveloping
theself(Komives,Owen,Longerbeam,andMainella).Developingaselfidentitythrougha
reflectionofexperienceswillmotivatetheindividualtofindconnectiontotheworkthattheyare
doinginawaythattheyareabletoselfidentifyasaleader.Thistypeofidentityallowsforthe
frameworkofintersectionalitytofindspaceinthesolution.Itmeansbeingabletoresonatewith
alargerteambeyondunderstandingtheintersectionalitiesathandasawayofbringingyour
wholeselftoaleadershippositionwithouthavingtonegotiateasalientidentity
Learningfrom
theExperiencesofSelfidentifiedWomenofColorActivists(
Linder&Rodriguez,2012).
AsRoselindeTorresdescribesinherTedTalk,aneffectiveleadermustbeplacedinthe
nowwiththeunderstandingofyesterdayspredictabilityandtomorrow'srealitiestobe
effectiveinthenow.Thisrequireswhatshecallsbeingcourageousenoughtoabandonthe
past.Intheprocessofleadershipthismeansthataleaderiswillingtoadapttothechangesthat
aregoingoninsideandoutsideofthegroupandrespond.Itmeansthatthereisawillingnessto
changedirectionthatmightshowpromiseinitsresultswithoutpromiseofgettingtothem.This
allowsforatransformativevs.reformativeunderstandingofleadershipwhichencouragesnot
workingundertherestraintofexistingstructuresbutgettingridofthosestructurestobuilda
paradigmthatallowsonetoincludeallpeople.AnexampleofthisisAngelaDaviss
organizationCriticalResistance,insteadoftryingtofixanexistingcriminaljusticesystemthat
wasbuiltonanunjustfoundationitismeanttoabolishthecurrentcriminaljusticesystemand

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movepeopleforward.ThisthinkingisconsideredradicalandinmanyplacesuninvitedbutI
believethatthistypeofthinkingthatweareafraidtotakechancesonisthetypeofthinkingthat
iscarriedbystrongleaders.
ItisunderthisdistinctionoftransformativeleadershipinacollectivesettingthatIam
abletoviewmyselfasaleader.Whilemyunderstandingofleadershipdevelopsandchanges
basedonmycontextthereareconsistenciesthatinformhowIshowupinthespaceswhere
leadershipispertinenttothespaceanditsoutcomes.Itisnotaboutpraiseordistinctionbetween
thoseinmycommunitybutinsteadaboutservingacollectivepurposethatisdrivenbya
commonvalue.IhavebuiltmyphilosophyaroundthetraitsthatIembodyasanindividualinside
andoutsideofmyprofession.WhensomeoneImentorreturnstosharewhattheyhavelearned
aboutthemselvesthroughactingoutontheirvaluesiswhenIseemyownleadershipisatplay.

Whatinformsmywork?
Atthecoreofmyleadershipphilosophythereisthebeliefthatinorderformetoleadat
mycapacityIneedtobeabletoshowupasmywholeself.Thecapacityofshowingupasa
bilingualfirstgenerationChicanaallowsmetobeabetter,true,andhonestleader.Ineedtobe
inaspacewhereIfindcomfortinidentifyingthesalientpartsofmyidentity.Thisisnecessary
becauseasaleadermyexperiencesarecontextualtomyidentityandinformtheknowledgeand
thestrengththatIcanbringtomyteam.Mypersonalidentitydevelopmenthasallowedmeto
learnhowIconnectwithalargergroup.Suchsocialandculturalidentitiesareatthebasisof
howInavigateconversations,challenges,andpoliticsthatIfacewhileinaleadershiprole.
Suchidentitiesareatplayinourleadershiprolesbecauseoursalientidentitiesare
attachedtoourvaluesandareflectionofouracknowledgedandunacknowledgedbiases.The

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ideaofsalientidentitiesinleadershipisthereforeawaytoinformhowwenavigateleadership
andnotnegotiateidentity.Identityinformsleadershipbecauseitisconnectedtopurposeand
howoneisabletoleadinacontext.WhenIaminaleadershippositionwhereIamguidingmy
studentsmyidentityinformswhatIcanusefrommyexperiencetoempowermystudentsaswell
aswhenIcanstepbackandbealearner.
ThisframeworkisbuiltaroundthecollectivecommunitymodelthatRuderindicatesin
WeavingStrongCommunities
(2011)whereweremoveanyexternalbarriersthatwouldallowus
worktogetherwiththesamepurpose.Myresponseasaleaderisusuallybasedonacontext
whichingroupsaremadeupofpeoplewhoseekpurposefortheirlargercommunities.Thistype
wouldbeconsideredatypeofadvocacyandcommunitywork.
Moreover,IsuggestthatthatKouzesandPosner'sviewonmotivationhasarolein
collectiveleadership.EvenifitisnotinthemainframeworkthatIuse,itismeaningfultomake
myownframeworkwork.Thisisbecauseattimeswhenleadershipandsalientidentitiescross
womxnofcolorwillnoteasilyreceivethepraiseandappreciationthattheydeserve.Underthe
leadershipofothersmysalientidentityandthestrengthsthatIcanbringwhileattachedtothose
arereceivedandpercieveddifferently.In
PresumedIncompetence
(2012)thestoriesofthe
womxnofcolortalkaboutrace,classandgenderasasignificantintersectionalityinleadership
thataltersothersabilitytoviewusincompetentasleaders.
AfewdaysagoIwassittinginameetingwhereIbroughtuptheconcernsaboutworking
onastaffthatdoesnotfeelsupportedbytheadvisors.Callingattentiontothereactioninhopes
ofprogressingaconversationandactionthewhitewomanintheroombegantoshoutandcry
whileaccusingmeofprojectingmyemotions.Thiswasdoneinaroomoftwoothersupervisors

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andItriedtonavigateandrefocustheconversation.LaterthatweekIwassurprisedbytwo
supervisorstotellmethatIwashostile.Myhopetodomyworkinthisatmospherehad
disappearedasIsawtwomen,oneofwhichwasnotpresentinthemeeting,tellmeIwashostile.
Thesetwosupervisorsdistractedbythetearsofawhitewomanhadjustremindedmethatmy
effortstofindpurposeinmyworkarenotpossibleinanorganizationthatdoesnotcollectively
lead.ItremindedmethatthetypeofworkthatIbringisrarelypraisedandmostoftenthannotis
seenasunprofessionalifitisnotaperpetuationofthesameideaofthechosenleader.Itis
becauseofexperienceslikethisthatIwouldarguethatwhilepraiseandmotivationisa
significantdriveinmyworkitisnotasourcethatIdependonorexpect.
However,IwouldarguethatforthissamereasonmotivationinthespacesinwhichIlead
isimportant.Itisbecauseintraditionalspacesofleadershipthestoriesofmanyleadersofcolor
goesunrecognizedandisquestionedthatIstillbelievethatthereshouldbeaconsistent
validationandencouragementtomotivatetheleadersinthiscontext.Toletthemknowthata
workthatmaynothavethesupportofmanycanthriveontheeffortofafewthathavegreat
investment.ThisiswhatstrongleadershiplookslikeandIwanttoencourageit.
Theprosofthisleadershipstyleisthatitisbuiltonmultipleperspectivesthatcomein
dialoguetoreachanactionorientedoutcome.Itallowsformanypeopletoseethemselvesina
solutionandtotakearolethatcontributestothethoughtprocessandtheleadership.Itprovidesa
spaceforpeopletodowhatmanyauthorsofcolorrefertoastheactofdecolonizingtheirmind
(Aldama&Quionez,2002)andtoleadthroughtheirowntruthinasharedspace.Thisallows
foragroupofpeopletoleadwithouttheassociatedjudgementandmisinformedrhetoricthatis
createdtoinvalidateandkeepdowntheircommunity.Myleadershipapproachisnot

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individualistic,meaningthatitisinformedbyacapacityforcollaborationandsupporttokeep
theenergyhighandstrong.Inthisframework,storytellingallowsforalearningthatisinformed
byanarrativeandnonwesternphilosophy(Merrian&Caffarella&Baumgertner,2007).
Theconofthisstyleistime.Collectiveleadershipinwhichthereisspaceandcapacityto
tellstoriesisboundtoexhaustthetimethateveryindividualinagroupneedstosharetheirneed
andtheirpurpose.Itcancauseafatiguefromdeconstructingpersonalandgroupbarrierstogetto
aplaceofconcreteaction.Whileothersarguethatitisawasteoftimeinleadership,Iarguethat
itallowsagrouptobecomeinvestedineachother.Whenpeopleconnecttheircausetolosingor
gainingsomethingtheycommitthemselvestothelongtermwork.
UltimatelywhatinformsmyleadershiparethepeoplethatIworkwith.ThestoriesthatI
learnaboutthemandhowmyownstoryalignswithwhattheywantandIwantfromacollective.
MygroupinformsmebecauseIfeedoffoftheirstrengthandtheirreason.Ibuildoffofthe
connectionthatwehaveandthesimilaritiesofourframeworktobuildsolidarity.Asolidarity
fromafemenistperspective(Mohanty,2003)thatconsiderstheintersectionalityofraceand
class.Ileadfromacollectiveframeworkthatisreactiveandresponsivetoallthatarein
solidaritytomovetheircauseforward.

HowdoIdoLeadership?

WhenleadingIbuildonthreeprinciplescollectiveleadershipincommunity,clearexpectations,
andmeaningmaking.TheseprinciplesarefoundationaltohowImakedecisionsandhowI
work.Thisallowsmetobepresent,becritical,andbeconfident.WhenIleadtheseprinciples
allowmetomakemychoicesevenwhentheyaredonewiththeriskofdisagreementorfearof
failure.Workinginacommunitygivesmethestrengthofsupportivepeopleandstrongerideas.

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ClearexpectationsallowmetoconcentrateonwhatmoreIcandoorwhatIcandodifferently
insteadoffillingmytimewithtasksandtransactionalwork.MeaningmakingmeansIfindan
importanceinmyroleandhowIconnectwithothersinagroup.

CommunityleadershipdoesnotonlymeanthatIworkwithothersbutthatwhilewe
worktogetherweapproachtasksinacollectiveway.Morespecifically,theframeworkthat
informsmyownparticipationinacollectiveisasoutlinedinZapatistaLeadership(Sharing
LeadershipSeriesHandout,2009).TheZapatistaframeworkissomethingthatIuseasan
educatorbecauseitcreatesanequitablegroundforallwhoarebringingideastotheteam.
Similarto
T
heCollectiveLeadershipStorybook
b
yRuder,mydecisionsasaleaderarebasedon
thecollectiveeffortsandperspectivesofallthathaveasomethingtoloseortowinfrombeingin
thespace.Thismeansthatyouhavetotrusttheensemble(Hazlewood,2011)inorderfor
everyindividualtodowell.Havingthisconnectionandunderstandingofwhatyouhavetolose
orgainbybeingconnectedtoyourgroupmakestheleadershipthatyouhaveinitstronger.

Theclarityofexpectationdoesntonlyhavetobeaboutthetaskathands.Ithastobe
aboutwhatIasapartofthecollectiveamcommittingmyselfto.Ibelievethatbuildingclarity
andcapacity(Bolman&Gallos,2011)allowsforrealisticmeasurementsofaction.Itfillsinthe
gapsofastructureinwhicheveryonecannamewhatisnothappeningbutthingsarenotbeing
donesothatthereisprogress.IntheirTedTalk,Cliatt
Wayman(2015)remindsherstudents
whatsheexpectsfromthemonthedaily.Thisactofclaritydoesnotonlyprovidestructurebutit
allowstheircommunitytoknowthattherearepeoplewhodependandtrustontheirabilityto
showupinorderforthingstohappen.Somethingassmallasthiscantakeourcommunitiesa
longwayinaction.

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Idoleadershipbyconnectingittomystudentsmeaningmakingprocess.Ispecifically
usethestructurethatisprovidedby
CriticalRaceTheory
(Delgado&Stefancic,2005)wheremy
studentsareabletosharetheirexperienceandtheirneedswithouthavingtheirreality
questioned.Havingthisopportunitytotelltheirownstoryishowmystudentsallowmeinasa
mentorandfindrespecttowardsmeasaleader.Iusetheirstorytofindtheirstrengthandenable
themtouseit.Thissenseofconnectionoftheirworkasaleadertotheirstorycreatesmeaning
forallthattheydoinforthatcause.ThisisthesamewayIlookforthestrengthsthathelpmebe
aleader.I
knowthatallofthoseinmygroupwillnothavethesameskill
setbutwhatwewill
haveisasharedpurpose.Itiswiththisbelievethatthestrengthinothersisnotfoundbytraitbut
byconnectiontopurposeandtothegroup.

Idoleadershipinthiswaybecauseitallowsforreflection,individualchallengeand
support,andaccountability.Thistypeofstyleallowsmetoholdanotherpersonaccountableto
theinteractionswehaveanditmakesmeaccountabletomeettheirefforts.WhenIdocollective
leadershipIhavetobeopentowhateveryonebringsandthatmeansthatIhavetheinputof
manybeforemakingadecision.

MydecisionmakingstyleisaffectedbythegroupofpeoplethatIamworkingwith.
BecauseIhaveseenmostleadershipinspacesofcommunitybuildingandstudentorganizingI
amconstantlymakingsurethatIamconsideringtheprivilegesandlackofthemintheroom.As
aresultmyreasoningbehindethicaldilemmasanddecisionsisinfluencedbyhowIlead.

ThemostrecentdecisionthatIhavehadtomakeasaleaderwasifIleavemyjob
positionandtakeadifferentoffer.Takingsuchanofferhadmultiplelevelsofcomplicationsfor
me.Whileontheonehandstayinginthispositionwasphysicallyandmentallyunhealthyforme

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atthesametimetherewereothersfactorsthathadtoplayinmydecision.AsaneducatorIhad
toquestionmyroleasamentortoalargergroupofstudents.IhadquestionwhatIgainedfrom
leavingbutalsowhattheylostfrommesteppingaway.Knowingtheirexperiencewasnot
pleasanteitherandleavingatatimewhentheyexpresseditfeltlikeIwasleavingthesame
situationIwasaskingthemtonavigate.Inaddition,IhadasupervisorleavebeforeandI
rememberthatontopoftheemotionaltaxationthatthistookonmeasIfoundmyroleinmy
departmentitalsotookaphysicaltollwithalloftheworkthatIwasexpectedtodo.
However,stayinginsuchaspacewheremysupervisorsdidnotacknowledgemywork
madeitdifficultformetobeatwork.Attimesitisnotthevalueofcompensationthatonegets
thatmattersifthereisnotrecognitionofhowonehasbeenabletoshowupintheworkthatis
done.ItwashardtobelieveIcanstayinajobwhereIwasnotsureifotherswantedmeto
succeedbecauseofthelackofsupportandlackofexpectationorencouragementtodowell
(Kouzes&Posner,45
72).ThisdecisionprocessbecomesthehardestwhenIplayamentorrole
forfirst
generation,low
income,andundocumentedleadership.Itisdifficulttomakeadecision
likeleavingagroupofpeoplethatconnectmetotheirexperienceandthinkofmeastheir
supportsystem.

InthissituationIalsohadtoprocesssomethingbiggerthanwhatthismeantformy
programofstudyorforthestudentsofthedepartment.ThefactisthatIamalsoatypeofleader
inmyhousehold.WhilethisroleisdistinctitmeansthatIhavetoconsidermyfamilyinmy
decisionmakingandinthechoicesthatItake.Whileinmyfamilyitisnottalkedaboutthereisa
collectiveeffortthatishappening.Myefforthasbeentocometoschoolandgetafull
timejob.
AsmuchasIworktowardsajobwithpassionIamrestrainedwiththerealityofstabilitythatI

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canhaveformyselfandsoonenoughformysisters.ThisdecisionmakingprocessmeantthatI
hadtodecidebetweenmycommitmenttomyselformycommitmenttoothers.Istayedinmy
jobtocompletewhatIstartedbecauseasaleadersometimesyouunderstandthatyourpartina
collectiveistocompletethetaskthatyousignedupfortogettosomethingbiggerandbetter.
LikeMcCrystal(2011)IalsoseesuccessintheleadershipthatIhaveasaneducator.I
thinkthatitisimportanttovaluetheworkthatyoudoinordertodoitwell.Believingthatmy
workissignificantandthatifitwasnotbeingdonetherewouldbeasignificantimpactmakes
meworkharder.AsaneducatorIamrequiredtomakedecisionsthatrequiremetoshowupin
spaceswithoutthesecurityofkeepingmyjobsandattimesmyownperson.AtsuchmomentsI
lookforthesamecouragetoconvincethosewhoarewatchingmetoknowthatLeaderscanlet
youfailandyetnotletyoubeafailure.Suchalessonrequiresmetobevulnerablewithmy
studentsandsharemystorysothattheyknowthatwehavethesameinterestathand.
WhenIdoleadershipitisbecauseIamcommittedtoitspurpose.ItmeansthatIamina
solution
orientedmindsetwithafoundationalunderstandingofwhoitaffectsandwhy.This
understandingmakesmyleadershipcollectiveandnotself
serving.Mycommitmentallowsme
tobeclearwiththeexpectationsthatIhavefromaspace.ItallowsmetobeclearabouthowI
amabletoshowupandunderwhatcircumstancesIcannot.Idoleadershiptomeetthepurpose
ofthecollectivethatIamapartofandtofeedthepurposethatIcarrywithmypersonal
circumstance.ThisconnectiontotheleadershipIdo,drivesmetodoitatmybest.

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Mohanty,Chandra.
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York:DukeUP,2003.

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Torres,R.(2013).Whatittakestobeagreatleader.TEDTalk.

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