Cesar Chavez was a Mexican-American union leader for farm laborers in California. When he first began working in the fields, Chavez was a field laborer and did not have many of the beliefs and values as he did later on in life. He was well known for having strong ethics and for practicing non-violence (Tejada-Flores, 2004). Chavez exhibited several different sources of power that is found in successful leaders and was able to convince grape growers to accept collective bargaining contracts for field workers by using effective influence tactics (“United Farm Workers,” 2006). Through his hardships, and because of his compassion to help others, he gained the knowledge and experience he needed to become a great organizer and leader.
Cesar Chavez was born in Arizona to a very poor family and by the late 1930s he and his family re-located to several farming communities in California (“Tejada-Flores,” 2004). According to the United Farm Workers web site (2006), he began to work in the fields rather than attending high school in order to help his family financially. During his youth, Chavez’s attitude toward formal education was that of the common misconception that “the only school you learn leadership from is the school of hard knocks” (Hughes, Ginnet, & Curphy, 2009, p. 17). He attended many schools and once he finished the eighth grade, he gave up because “he felt that education had nothing to do with his farm worker/migrant way of life” (“United Farm Workers,” 2006). Even without a high school education, Chavez possessed a high level of practical intelligence when it came to farm workers and their needs. Practical intelligence is important because it helps a leader know what to do and how to do it when they come across certain leadership situations and they can also use it to help a team to work together more effectively. Although Chavez did not receive formal education past the eighth grade, “later in life, education was his passion. The walls of his office in La Paz (United Farm Worker Headquarters) are lined with hundreds of books ranging from philosophy, economics, cooperatives, and unions, to biographies on Gandhi and the Kennedys’. He believed that, ‘The end of all education should surely be service to others,’ a belief that he practiced until his untimely death” (“United Farm Workers,” 2006). Hughes et al. (2009) believe that formal education and learning from experience complement one another and Chavez recognized this as he aged (p. 17). He realized that education was an important aspect of becoming a better leader because it allowed him to expand his wisdom and become a more authentic and servant leader.
Chavez showed traits of being an authentic leader because he had strong ethical convictions, which included treating others with respect and dignity and he stood firm when it came to his fundamental values on important issues (Hughes et al., 2009, p. 186). According to Hughes et al. (2009), “Authentic leaders behave the way they do because of personal conviction rather than to attain status, rewards, or other advantages” (p. 186). Chavez did not attain any material wealth during his duration as the leader of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW). In fact, “during his lifetime, Chavez never earned more than $5,000 a year” (“United Farm Workers,” 2006). He was able to relate to his followers because he also in the same position they were in and he faced the same difficulties they faced.
In addition, Chavez displayed qualities of a servant leader. Other historical figures that exhibited traits of servant leadership are Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi (Hughes et al., 2009, p. 187-189). Some of these qualities that Chavez exhibited were: (1) he was empathetic towards his followers because he knew what type of situation they were in, (2) in addition to being able to communicate effectively, he was able to listen effectively to what his followers...