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November 13, 2006

REFLECTION: the role of a “leader”… thoughts about Sub. Marcos

This is a big question for our times… the role of leaders and what “leadership” means. Many of us have experienced organizations centered around a “visionary leader,” and our society, especially media, loves to focus on “the hero” of the story. Many times this “hero” is a man.

The role of Subcomandante Marcos (of the EZLN) is quite interesting to me. On the one hand, he is yet another man getting kudos and attention from crowds and media, and has his ego and “schtik”—in his case, it’s the pipe, mask and army gear. But on the other hand, he seems also to do a good job trying to downplay his own power and redirect it to the community as a whole. That’s why he is the “SUB”comandante – he is “sub” to “la gente.” And that’s one reason for the mask—to hide his own ego and be a shadow and spokesperson for the people.

During the event in Magdalena, he sat silently for the full 6 hours of testimonials, quietly writing notes and observing the speaker. Only at the end did he stand up and speak for about 15 minutes, basically summarizing what we had heard that night and revving people up a bit for action. He really did seem humbled toward everyone else, and in this way seemed to do a good job being “the shadow” of the broader community. I respected his presence.

The role of a focalized and/or visionary leader is a HUGE question for social movements today, as we struggle to empower ALL people to speak their truth and mobilize action….. and I welcome dialogue about this, so please comment!!

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