Review: The Power of Latino Leadership by Juana Bordas (Chile 1964-66)

latino-leadership-140The Power of Latino Leadership: Culture, Inclusion, and Contribution
By Juana Bordas (Chile 1964-66)
Berrett-Koehler Publisher
258 pages
$19.95 (paperback), $9.18 (Kindle)

Reviewed by Jean Seigle
(Paraguay 1976-78; PC/W 1991-94; CD Ecuador 1994-97; Regional Manager, Boston 1997-99).

Juana Bordas has written a book that is a gift to every student of leadership.  Not just Latino leadership.  This book needs to sit, dog eared, on every book shelf next to Good to Great or whatever one’s favorite leadership book may be.  Yes, I am a huge fan.  A fan of not only this book, but of Latino culture and of the ten principles of Latino  leadership that Bordas identifies.  So fair warning.

This is an important book about how Latino leadership has evolved as a reflection of Latino culture forged through centuries of conquest and acculturation which began in 200 BC, when the Romans initiated a 700 year occupation of Spain. Latinos today, Bordas tells us, are connected by their heritage, history as a mixed race people; the Spanish language, a common spirit and struggle to free themselves from discrimination.  The leadership model that she constructs is inexorably linked to Latino culture.

Juana Bordas

Juana Bordas

Most the leadership books that have become widely read are authored by well know “business gurus”. Most are white men, as are those who have dominated national leadership for generations.   A few of their definitions of leadership or leaders are noted below:

Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

In contrast, Juana Bordas has identified ten principles of Latino leadership which stem from the rich and complex cultural foundation of Latinos. These are:

  1. Personalismo — the character of the leader
  2. Conciencia — Knowing oneself and personal awareness
  3. Destino — Personal and collective
  4. La Cultura — Culturally based leadership
  5. De Colores — Inclusivity and diversity
  6. Juntos — Collective community stewardship
  7. Adelante — global spirit and immigrant spirit
  8. Si Se Puede — Social activism and coalition leadership
  9. Gozar la Vida — Leadership that celebrates life
  10. Fe y esperanza — Sustained by Faith and Hope

This approach creates an understanding of Latino leadership markedly different from leadership models that have dominated the American corporate, political and community landscape.  Bordas offers compelling examples of how the principles inform Latino leadership by introducing us to Latino leaders who are today making a dramatic impact on the current political, economic, and community realms.

Generations of Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Latin countries have been embraced by the notion of exclusivity in Latino culture.  In fact, Bordas welcomes all readers into it. This is the first time I have been so directly invited to a reading, learning, cultural experience.  “If you are not Latino by birth, this book is an invitation to …become part of the familia.  To experience our dynamic culture. To tap your feet to the salsa beat and become a Latino by corazon! (heart)”.

Back in 1976 when I began PCV service in Paraguay, I recognized how the principle of inclusion flourished in the community in which I lived and worked, but not so in the governmental arena. In fact, I served under President Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay’s military dictator from 1958 until 1989.  Stroessner’s repressive leadership demonstrated none of the principles that give promise to Latino leadership in the US today.

Who are the Latinos that Bordas bases her thesis upon?  First, she uses the term Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in this book.  In 1980 the term “Hispanic” was first added to the US census, and in 2000, the term Latino was added.  Today, one in five school children in the US are Latino, as is one in four babies born.  By 2050 one in three Americans will be Latino.  The importance of understanding what motivates Latinos to lead in the political, economic and community realms could not be more obvious.


These are a few of the Latinos whose leadership today is based on the principles that Bordas defines:

Julian Castro gave the key note address at the 2012 Democratic Convention, as Mayor of San Antonio; he is the youngest mayor of a top 50 City in the US. Time magazine has placed him on the “40 under 40” list of rising stars in national politics.

Hilda Solis was the first Latina to serve in a president’s cabinet, serving as the 25th US Secretary of Labor. In 2000, she became the first female recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Frederico Pena co-chaired President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Elected as Mayor of Denver, he was the first Latino to serve as Mayor in a Hispanic minority city.

I have spent my professional life studying and contributing to the leadership models of the organizations in which I have worked.  They include corporate, state and federal government (8.5 years as Peace Corps staff), and entrepreneurial non-profits organizations.  Especially in the non-profit organizations, during the last twenty years, a significant part of my work has focused on leadership; reading, observing, training on and practicing leadership skills that allow for the realization of missions that redistribute resources in an equitable manner and contribute not to the greed of the bottom line, but to the common good.

I am grateful that Juana Bordas has given us a book to guide us as individuals, communities, and as a nation on the way to lead in celebration of life and global and immigrant spirit.

Jean Seigle began her professional life as a teacher.  Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay, and in collaboration with her Paraguayan counterpart, she launched that nation’s first rural special education program. Additionally, her classroom teaching includes experiences in preschool, elementary public school, and university settings.

In her career, Jean Seigle has worked domestically and international in government, nonprofits, and the corporate world in education, training, recruitment, organizational and staff development and management, marketing, policy development and implementation.

Besides her extensive Peace Corps experience, she was the Administrative Director of the Massachusetts Office for Children in the 1980s.

In 1999 she joined City Year, an AmeriCorps program, as the National Recruitment Director, and made subsequent contributions as the Director of Site Management, and Vice President for Civic Leadership.

For the last six years she has worked with Citizen Schools, an education non-profit AmeriCorps program, serving first as the Managing Director of Program for Massachusetts and currently as Talent Development Partner and Executive Coach.

Her undergraduate and Masters in Education in education is from Tufts University. Jean has completed her doctoral course work in developmental psychology from University of Kansas, and has also served on a variety of boards, including board chair of the Extended Day Program of her son’s public school.

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