How will we advance Latino leadership in corporate America? This is the million-dollar question—or, more apt, the $2.13 trillion question, looking at the GDP of the Hispanic community.
The Hispanic community. What a powerful group. And, at the same time, what an underrepresented group in the power structure of American business.
The answer to the aforementioned question?
“Power will come when forged through collaboration, because it leverages our strength [as Latinos] in building relationships,” say Dr. Robert Rodriguez and Andrés Tapia in their book, Auténtico: The Definitive Guide to Latino Career Success. “Yet we must accept that we won’t always maintain simpatía with others when we are advocating for the advancement of the Latino talent agenda. We have to learn and accept and live with uncomfortable power dynamics instead of perpetuating our acquiescence. …
“We can all rejoice when every Latino executive has a ready answer when asked, ‘What have you contributed to the greater Latino collective?’”
So, what’s your answer?
Whether or not you are directly in charge of talent acquisition, you can influence hiring efforts with your knowledge of Latino strengths and culture. Ensure culturally sensitive screening during interviews. When creating a profile of competencies and qualifications for the ideal candidate, keep in mind these six generalized and normed differences between European-American and Hispanic cultures (note that not all Latinos and not all European-Americans behave according to these documented generalities).
|Locus of control||Internal control: God helps those who help themselves||External control: Si Dios Quiere (God willing)|
|Ascribing status||Egalitarianism||Hierarchy / Paternalism|
|Identity||Individualistic: “I”||Communal: “We”|
|Process||Follow the rules; rules apply universally||Go with the flow; context dictates fairness|
|Managing emotions||Stiff upper lip: Don’t show emotion||Pura vida: Embrace and show emotion|
If any of these cultural dimensions is critically important to success in the role, consider whether it can be a point of training and development before ruling out candidates who possess it. At the same time, find the balance between forcing assimilation and valuing diversity.
“Advancing Latino talent requires everybody,” Tapia says. “It requires talent to step it up, and it requires organizations to adapt and accommodate … to develop Latino talent in a way that speaks to their ‘Latinicity.’ How can you encourage and invite Latinos/Latinas to be more themselves?”
In his work at Korn Ferry, Tapia collaborates with his colleagues on offering their clients a program called The Power of Choice, geared toward talent that is underrepresented. The program is based on research evaluating the confidence levels of executives in three areas that have an impact in their ability to achieve their career goals: social/relational, political/influential, and technical. “All three are necessary for professional success,” he explains.
Yet when Korn Ferry filtered its research by affinity, they found that the groups underrepresented in corporate leadership (Latinos, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and females) devalued or underestimated the importance of the social/relational area and overvalued technical prowess. The result? These minority groups had more education and skills training, yet smaller networks.
To address this, Tapia emphasizes the importance of professional mentorship/sponsorship programs. “These programs are so important,” he says. “They enhance the social/relational and political/influential wherewithal of talent.”
“Advancing Latino talent requires everybody. It requires talent to step it up, and it requires organizations to adapt and accommodate … to develop Latino talent in a way that speaks to their ‘Latinicity.’”
Another area of development that he recommends is in teaching calculated risk. This point is illustrated by an experiment he describes: a group of businessmen and women were taken to a room where three ring-toss games were set up, each at a different distance from the player. The closest target was worth a few points, the middle was worth a medium amount of points, and the furthest was worth an extraordinary number of points. Each person was given one ring to toss. Patterns emerged based on the affinity group of the player. Latinos and women threw the ring toward the closest target—the safe bet. Where did the white males aim?
“One might assume the furthest target, but actually, white males threw their rings to the middle, because it was the calculated risk,” Tapia notes.
Being adept at taking calculated risk is a valued trait of high-level executives and should be a key point in talent development programs.
“Our Latinx professionals collectively felt that older, more successful Latinos are not providing much help or mentoring,” say Tapia and Rodriguez in Auténtico. “Either there were few or no Latinos to look up to in their organization, or the Latinos they did have as mentors or role models failed to help them, sometimes even making it harder for the Latinx generation to succeed.”
The sentiment seems to be that Latinx professionals believe they are seen as competition, and successful Latino executives are not willing to sponsor them to advance the careers of the younger generation.
The Latinx group recognizes this, yet they also abdicate responsibility for making a change. Tapia and Rodriguez report: “While young Latinos lament the lack of Latino role models and Latino mentors, when asked if they mentor young Latinos, almost two-thirds indicated they do not.”
So the issue is perpetuated. It’s clear that the entire community of Latino executives must adopt a pay-it-forward mindset in order to break this chain of individualism. Iremos más lejos juntos que solos. We will go further together than alone.
A 10-Point Manifesto
An audience-centric how-to for furthering the success of Latinos, as published in Auténtico: The Definitive Guide to Latino Career Success
1Shed the self-image that you are color-blind, and instead proactively address the conscious and unconscious biases that have kept Latinos from rising to the height of our potential.
2Be willing to adapt to and capitalize on the differences that Latinos bring to corporate culture. Embracing Latino culture will create more inclusive environments for Latino talent and equip companies to better serve Latino consumers and clients. Non-Latinos will benefit from Latino cultural assets in the same way Latinos have been enriched by other cultures.
3Engage with and resolve your own cultural identity. Conclusions will vary for each leader about what this means for them, so we must allow for variances. But this can’t be ignored and the sooner it can be addressed, the more effective Latino leaders will be.
4Reclaim our communal spirit to overcome intra-Latino divides. Focusing on our national, socioeconomic, and regional rivalries leads to a lack of unity and weakens the power of our numbers, our institutions, and our leadership.
5Give back to the community. True excellence requires leveraging high personal achievement reached to help others achieve success. The journey of the Latino executive is incomplete if they don’t give back to others.
6Embrace ambition as an honorable talent. While maintaining humility, we also must not be naïve. No one is going to hand us opportunities if we are not openly seeking them. The community should celebrate those who demonstrate this ambition because we all benefit.
7Double down on the relentless pursuit of higher education and rally behind it as a civil rights issue. Latino college attendance is trending upward and we need to accelerate this trend significantly by any means necessary in the face of massive budget cutbacks. Education is the greatest bulwark against hostility and biases, and for achieving the highest levels of leadership.
8Get over our ambivalence about power by claiming more of it and redefining it on our own terms. Where ambition is personal, power is collective. The impact of Latino power in corporations, government, and society is incongruent with our massive numbers. Yet, even as we operate with more power, we must contribute to a differentiated way of wielding it.
Next-Generation Latino Leaders:
9Pursue the path of a bicultural identity. Resist assimilation. Instead develop a differentiating American-Latino identity that embraces and celebrates the multiple influences of mainstream American culture and that of one’s specific Latino heritage(s).
10Master the rules of corporate culture so you can break them when the right time comes. Master the rules of your own culture, as well, and in the crucible of being a successful Latino in corporate America, find ways to have both cultures shape and influence each other. In this, create the conditions for greater creativity, innovation, and transformation.