The Uplifter

Roberto Llamas, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, Univision Communications Inc.

How does Roberto Llamas define leadership? In part, it requires a “confidence and willingness to fall, get up again, and not look back,” he says.

What makes you a líder in your professional and personal life?
A general restlessness to look for and then be an active part of something special … Confidence and willingness to fall, get up again, and not look back. Finally, a strong belief in merit and the willingness to make tough calls regarding it. These attributes at least get me “listened to” and sometimes followed.

Where or who do you draw inspiration from?
Immigrants—starting with my father and extending to many others I have known and know today. Their willingness and courage to risk everything and reinvent themselves, in the face of uncertainty, loss of family, and discrimination, is inspiring and worth our admiration. It has always set a standard for me on how to measure a task or risk and has always given me confidence that “if they could, with what they had, and what they faced,” then I should aim higher. And if I can hustle and work anywhere close to as hard as them, then at least the light they handed me will not have dimmed because of me.

Describe your first real job.
Selling shoes at the age of 15. My father, a barber, bought me a suit and tie, drove me to work, and cried when he dropped me off.  He told me in a broken voice that I was “really smart.” I think he meant different.

Do you have a secret weapon in the business world?
First of all, a never-bending belief in people and their personal capabilities and aspirations. People are huge—capable of so much—and yet many leaders want to make them “small” when they enter the workplace. We should be very confident that we can be candid with them, demand much of them, and treat them like capable adults.

What key trends define the industry you work in now?  
Increasing fragmentation of media with a bias toward digital, tremendous power in the consumer’s hands to customize his consumption of media, and changing demographics—particularly toward seniors and Hispanics.