Being the Voice Behind the Voice

Marion Moses was born in Wheeling, WV to parents of eight children.  She was the first of her 68 cousins to get a college degree.  She was trained as a nurse and moved to California just as the farm workers began to organize and fight for basic rights.  She spent five years working as a nurse for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

She then went to medical school and graduated at age 40.  She was Chavez’ personal physician.  He suffered from terrible back pains after years of stoop labor.

She worked behind the scenes in supporting the rights of farm workers.  She was especially active in raising awareness of the dangers of pesticides.  When farm workers needed medical care, she was their advocate in helping them get treatment from hospitals.  She was one of the first persons to link the need for health care as a basic human right.

Marion Moses was not afraid to do the jobs that no one else wanted.  If the work was important to do the cause, she did it.  She never wanted to be in the spotlight.  As the voice behind the voice, she had a tremendous impact on helping gain basic rights for those who put food on all of our tables.

Ambitious people often aspire to be in a power position.  Obviously, being in power gives one a voice in the direction of an organization.  But it also puts that person under close scrutiny of those within and outside the organization.  The leader’s day is often consumed by tedious meetings and mindless events where the leader’s presence is required for PR.

The voice behind the voice is often the person who provides ideas for the direction of the organization.  Leaders also need reality checks to have a sense of the people in the organization.  The voice behind the voice can be the bearer of harsh truths when others in the organization may be afraid to speak up.

To be an effective voice behind the voice, you have to do whatever is needed as Marion Moses did.  You have to suppress your own ego as you see your ideas being expressed by the leader.

Why be the voice behind the voice?  It’s because you have a real impact on the life of the organization.  Marion Moses provided that lifeline for the United Farm Workers.  In fact, she was credited with extending Cesar Chavez’ life as well as she cared for his severe back problems.

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“Champions are pioneers, and pioneers get shot at.  The companies that get the most from champions, therefore, are those that have rich support networks so that pioneers will flourish.”

– Tom Peters (co-author of In Search of Excellence)

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