Leadership Revisited – Latino Leadership

Apr 1, 2006

The Southern Poverty Law Center ( was founded in 1971 as a small civil rights law firm. Today, the Center is internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups. In 1981, the Center began investigating hate activity in response to a resurgence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan. It provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement, the media and the public through its quarterly magazine, Intelligence Report.

“The Nativists” by Susy Buchanan and Tom Kim (Intelligence Report, Winter 2005), an article as thought provoking as it is terrifying, warns that “around the country an anti-immigration movement is spreading like wildfire and an array of activists is fanning the flames.” You can go on line to read the entire article ( but here’s how it begins:

One of them says he’d like to bring nuclear weapons to the border. Another vows to stop the alleged Mexican invasion of Idaho. Several have links to white supremacist hate groups; others are given to dire warnings of horrible diseases, “barbaric” practices, and secret Latino conspiracies to “reconquer” the American Southwest. These are the nativists — the new crop of activists who are driving the movement that exploded last spring with the Minuteman Project in Arizona, a month-long effort by armed civilians to seal the border with Mexico.

Along with a whole array of media enablers they have barged into the nation’s consciousness with remarkable success. Some of them, like Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist, have made attempts to win high political office. Others have contented themselves with trying to build a mass movement.

Not all those who have joined the movement are extremists — many are legitimately concerned about the ability of the nation to absorb large numbers of immigrants, particularly the undocumented. But one thing seems clear: A dangerous mix of nativist intolerance, armed and untrained civilians, and wild-eyed conspiracy theories could easily explode into violence.

It is certainly not the intent of this article to discuss the politics and morality of The Nativists but we in the placement industry are interacting every day with Latino Americans in the workforce, climbing the executive ladders, and entering corporate boardrooms. So, we should know the realities and factor them into our strategic business plans.

Our country and our workforce is becoming more ethnically and culturally diverse; it is also becoming more Latino. Let the statistics speak for themselves. By the year 2025, there will be over 60 million Latinos living in the United States; by 2050 that number will grow to 100 million, which means that one out of every four Americans will be Latino. Over the next fifty years Latinos will account for 68 percent of our country’s population increase.

Sadly, one segment of our national planning certainly realizes and takes advantage of these facts and that is the military. The armed forces are so aggressive in recruiting Latinos that a counter-recruitment movement, Aztec Warrior Project for Peace, has been founded. DiversityInc (www.diversityinc), in an article entitled “Armed Forces Targeting Latinos,” quotes Paul Reyes, a New York attorney, “Recruiters are glossing over the risks involved in military service.” Reyes adds that enlistment numbers have “slumped among the general population and fallen among blacks. Latinos are a logical target for recruitment efforts. Like other groups of color, Latinos often have seen the military as a path toward social acceptance and they enlist for the same reasons other groups do: patriotism, educational benefits, job training, and a sense of purpose.”

“The Latino American Dream: High Hopes and Harsh Realities,” a report commissioned by The National Community for Latino Leadership ( takes a look at what the American Dream means to Latinos in the United States. The findings point out that Latinos are among America’s most dedicated dream makers; they believe in the American Dream; they are optimistic and hopeful despite some harsh realities that they face. Here are some results of that survey/report of 3,000 Latinos:

• 75% believed that the American Dream is attainable
• 81% agreed that today’s Latino children would attain that dream in their lifetime
• 32% stated that they had already achieved the American Dream
• 45% believe that they would achieve it in five to ten years
• 61% believed that the lives of the average Latino would get better over the next 25 years
• 40% of the respondents said they experienced discrimination because of their race
• Over 9 million Latinos reported they were discriminated against because of their ethnicity and culture.

Before we look at Latino perspectives on leadership, let’s look at “Hispanic” versus “Latino.” Oriol R. Gutierrez, Jr. wrote an article for DiversityInc (9/05), entitled Hispanic vs. Latino, Why It Matters.”

“Hispanic” is derived from the Spanish word ‘hispano’ which has its roots in the Latin word for Spain, ‘Hispania.’ “Hispanic,” first used in the US census in 1980, was defined as all people of descent from Spanish speaking countries. Gutierrez explains that because “Hispanic” includes people from Spain, and is a term imposed on them by others, the preferred term is “Latino.”

“Latino” is derived from the Spanish word “latino” (which describes things related to Latin). “Latino” is also an abbreviation of the Spanish word “latinoamericano” (which describes things relating to Latin America). “Latino’ is considered by its proponents as a more authentic term and it also has the added benefit of its more Spanish sound, which includes its ability to depict the feminine “Latina” to describe women … “Latino” is more inclusive.”

We stated at the beginning of this article that by 2050, 100 million Latinos will be living in the United States. This leads us to the realistic conclusion that the Latino community will have a profound impact on the future of leadership in our country. The Latino community will have significant input in determining the quality of effective and meaningful leadership in every facet of American life including our national, corporate, community, and religious leaders. What will this large group of Americans expect and demand from their leaders.

Reflecting an American Vista: The Character and Impact of Latino Leadership, a 2001 report of the National Community for Latino Leadership, “is the first in a series on Latino perspectives on leadership and examines the qualities that Latinos want leaders to possess.”

This study revealed that Latinos are clear about what these qualities are: leaders should be honest, trustworthy, ethical, and demonstrate integrity in their private and public conduct. In other words, Latinos are looking for sound character in their leaders. Latinos also want leaders to be competent, compassionate, and to practice community servanthood, by putting community interests before their own.

Based on the survey/report conducted by the National Community for Latino Leadership, The twenty most desired leadership qualities are clustered around four general leadership traits that Latinos expect leaders to possess. Latinos want leaders to:

• Exhibit character in their public dealings and private lives (58.9%)
• Demonstrate competence (11.8%)
• Express compassion in their exercise of leadership (9.6%)
• Practice community servanthood (9.2%)

This study suggests a distinct and refreshing Latino perspective on leadership:

• “Que sea un cumplidor” – one who does what he/she says he/she is going to do
• “Humilde et sincero” – not just unassuming but unselfish and empathetic toward others
• “El pueblo” – focus on people and community.

“NCLL’s preliminary findings suggest a distinct Latino cultural perspective on leadership that creates new possibilities for understanding the emergence and practice of leadership. The communal, collectivist, people-centered orientation of Latino leadership values, coupled with preferred leadership styles that are empathetic and compassionate, point to a new way of thinking about leadership which runs parallel with new paradigms of leadership that are currently being discussed in leadership circles.

• Stephen R. Covey writes that the leader of the future is one who creates a culture or value system based on the principles of service, integrity, fairness and equity.
• Daniel Coleman argues that the most effective leaders are those that possess emotional intelligence, of which empathy and cross-cultural sensitivity are key components
• Marshall Shaskin and William Rosenback outline the ‘new’ leadership profile in terms of capable management: credible, and caring with a follower orientation.”

Frank X. McCarthy is the President of Diverse Workplace Inc. (, a Massachusetts-based diversity recruiting firm. He was a Catholic priest from 1956-70, working in parish and school assignments, serving as a paratrooper chaplain with the 101st Airborne, and as pastor and director of an African American community project in Paterson, NJ. In 1973, he founded Xavier Associates and conducted diversity searches for over 25 years. Frank is a well-known and widely respected author and speaker on workplace diversity, recruiting, and candidate research. He can be reached: