Marina Silva: How Nature’s Parables Taught her Leadership
Brazilian presidential candidate in 2010 & 2014, Marina Silva is one of the most successful Green Party candidates of all time, winning 20 million votes for the Green Party in 2010 & again 20 million votes in 2014. Central to Silva’s message is a call for sustainability, appreciation for diversity, and environmental protection. Silva herself grew up with a close connection to nature. Illiterate until the age of 16, Silva was raised as a rubber tapper and grew up surrounded by natural wisdom. In the GlobalLeadership.TV dialogue with Walter Link, Silva discusses how nature’s parables made her a better leader.
Walter Link: My understanding is that you grew up very close to nature and that from this time of living in the forest, you developed a very close connection to nature and that this also plays an important part of inspiring what you are doing now and that it brings with it also certain sensitivities that have stayed with you and that are central to the way, you still are inspired by nature and you connect with people. Tell me a little about your story of growing up and how you are bringing what you learned as a child into your work today.
Marina Silva: My childhood and teenage years were full of learning, even though, I only learned to read and write at the age of 16. I always joke that I arrived in the city illiterate, in a world of writing, but with a PhD in empirical knowledge. Because I learned a lot from traditional people, the rubber tappers, the people to whom I belong. I was lucky to have a grandmother who was a traditional midwife and an uncle who lived with the Brazilian natives from 12 to 37 years of age. They both taught me a lot. I learned how to make metaphors from them.
Do not attempt to glitter like gold on the surface. Be real gold inside.
I work a lot with metaphors. Metaphors from nature are wonderful, if we’re capable of translating them into the language of life, the language of humans.
Can I tell you one? My grandmother used to say that when we want to do something important, we have to be like a fire in a compost heap. A compost heap may be a bunch of leaves that are piled up. A little smoke comes from the leaves. But, strong branches create a lot ember. But, you only see the leaves and the little bit of smoke coming out of them. You may, misguidedly think that you can put that fire out with your foot. But, if you step there, you will find a really high temperature from very hot embers.
My grandmother would say, “My dear, you should be like the compost fire with just a little smoke, but a high temperature, not on the surface, but underneath”. That was a very important metaphor.
How did I translate this into my life? At university, studying history, I decided that we should be a lot more than what we seem to be and seem like a lot less than what we actually are. Because when we seem like more than what we actually are, there is a risk that we could become a fraud and be denounced. But, when we are a lot more than we seem to be, we are always a treasure to be revealed.
Do not attempt to glitter like gold on the surface, be real gold inside, that I learned from nature – with light, with fire, from a compost heap, a compost pile nobody thinks much of.