The values and cultural preferences of individuals who identify as Hispanic are unique and distinct. So does the concept of leadership—what it should look like, sound like, and how it should be represented by Hispanic leaders in their communities. The diversity that exists within the Latino population means that leaders must use certain skillsets and engage differently. Different doesn’t mean any less proficient, less productive, or less impactful. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
In a recent Language is Your Superpower podcast, guest Marcos Villar, Executive Director of ALIANZA, a civic organization in Florida aimed at uniting the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community, stated, “We don’t prescribe [sic] to the idea that our community does not have leaders. We are surrounded by leaders everywhere…sometimes they don’t fit the leadership structure of a particular area (i.e., local government, region, etc.).” In the realm of leadership development, ALIANZA works with the community to encourage them to exercise tu voz or “your voice” by supporting better understanding of their individual and collective roles in social, economic, and environmental justice movements in the Latino and broader community. Three (3) attributes that you may find in Hispanic leaders that are directly linked to their diverse backgrounds are:
- Linguistic diversity and proficiency: Many Hispanics are bilingual (English and Spanish) or Spanish dominant, and they may or may not be linguistically proficient in navigating the regional or local landscape in which they may want to lead, irrespective of their command of English. A language difference does not equate to a leadership deficiency. Rather, it may require identifying the leadership qualities of the Spanish speaker and helping them learn how to communicate effectively within an English dominant environment.
- Culturally diverse backgrounds and upbringing: Latinos, Hispanics, or people that self-identify as Latinx connect to the cultural norms, beliefs, and way of living of the greater Hispanic population, but also to the subcultures of which they are a part. For example, Hispanics from the northeastern region of the U.S. such as New York or Chicago who are first, second, or third generation born in the U.S. have lived experiences that seamlessly integrate both cultures. In comparison, Hispanics that recently moved to the mainland U.S. may not thoroughly command the English language and cultural nuances, including those of other Latinos they meet. Hispanic culture is not monolithic, rather it is culturally rich and linguistically diverse in its dialects, interpretation of context, and social norms, which is influenced by each individual’s country of origin, unique personal experiences, and socioeconomic status. So, once newcomers learn how to navigate their new communities here in the U.S., culturally and linguistically, their contributions to society are felt even more.
- A passion for serving people: A collective and underlying belief of many Hispanics is that enhancing the life of one is to enhance the life of all, to serve one is to serve all and that when I benefit, we all benefit. That belief often drives their passion to serve.
Regardless of their nationality or heritage, natural leaders acquire the necessary attributes to serve their communities as they are exposed to opportunities which help groom them into becoming great leaders. Such is the case of Maribel Gomez Cordero, a County Commissioner in Central Florida who is a social worker that “currently is the bridge and the voice that connects the County with the Community” (Orange County, FL Board of Commissioners, 2021, para. 7). She has become well known in the community for her years of unselfish advocacy and work with the homeless, the Hispanic community, and people in need. Due to her work in the community with the homeless and with faith-based organizations, she decided to run for Commissioner. Her first attempt was unsuccessful, but she remained determined in her unwavering desire to serve her community. Eventually, she was successful in her civic pursuit to becoming a County Commissioner as continued to become more proficient in English. She now uses her language superpower to translate county-related communications from English into Spanish to ensure that her community is aware and understands what is going on. Marcos Villar stated, “She is a nonstop warrior for her community.”
With leadership, there is no “one size fits all” and that is also true for the diversity you will see and experience with Hispanic leaders. The combination of linguistic proficiency, understanding of culture and diversity, and passion for serving others that they have adds value to conventional leadership norms, and heightens the breadth and scope of their positive impact in American society.
Want to know more? Tune into our recent podcast with Marcos Vilar.