October 8


Leadership- Hispanic Cultural Characteristics Can Be a Differentiator

By Sara Canaday

October 8, 2021

business leaders, career, career success, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership characteristics, leadership skills, strategic leadership

In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I’d like to share some of my insights about the natural characteristics among Hispanic professionals that tend to make them influential and charismatic leaders.

What qualifies me to weigh in on this topic? My father is a second-generation Hispanic from Mexico. I also grew up in the border town of El Paso, Texas, where the population is more than 80% Hispanic. With that said, I’ll add that my mother is of Jewish decent, born and raised in New York. If you had walked into our kitchen, you’d be just as likely to find bagels and cream cheese as you would tortillas and tamales. I was very fortunate to be exposed to different cultures and got to see firsthand some of the innate tendencies that came with them.

Just to clarify, successful Hispanic leaders (and all leaders, for that matter!) are expected to provide direction, compelling roadmaps and smart guidance when it comes to tackling the challenges of today. But that alone won’t help employees feel emotionally connected to and invested in their work. This is an area where I have seen many Hispanic leaders really shine.

My intent is not to make generalizations about all Hispanics, but to highlight some of the cultural influences that can serve them well and position them as engaging and influential leaders. Here are a few that stand out:

1.     Empathy

Hispanics are often known for being caring, compassionate and empathetic.

According to a recent article in Forbes, researchers determined that empathy is the most important skill for leaders—ahead of strategic thinking and confidence and all the other traits we typically associate with leadership. In fact, the study showed that this undervalued quality can drive significant business results. That’s a big leap from the perception of empathy as an “optional” soft skill! If Hispanic leaders generally have an ingrained sense of empathy, they may be poised for greater success in motivating their teams.

2.     Selflessness

Many Hispanics tend to be adept at setting their own interests aside in favor of doing what’s best for the group.

In a leadership setting, that kind of commitment to a team is priceless. Every organization can benefit from having more leaders who are keenly aware of the needs of their employees, their colleagues and their customers. When leaders display that kind of selflessness, they build stronger relationships and create a sense of community that might be lacking in today’s scattered work environments. After months of asking teams to respond to constant uncertainty with endless pivots, leaders who care intensely about the welfare of others can foster a valuable sense of unity.

3.     Loyalty

Many Hispanics are fiercely devoted to their families, and their sense of solidarity is unwavering.

A deep and steadfast connection to family can translate into leadership gold. If Hispanic leaders can create teams that are perceived as extended family, employee engagement will undoubtedly increase. Research shows that team members crave the idea of being a part of something bigger than themselves, so performance is likely to soar when fueled by intangibles such as loyalty, trust and unconditional support.

4.     Relationship Focus

The Hispanic culture tends to value relationships as the foundation for everything else.

In general, Hispanics like to relate to people personally before they do so professionally. That’s a huge advantage when it comes to leadership. Whether leaders are working with their team members, vendors or customers, their odds of success are much higher if they focus on connections rather than transactions.

My father owned a structural engineering firm for more than 40 years, and I’ve seen this first hand. People love doing business with those who genuinely care about them as individuals—rather than someone who’s just focused on accessing their skills, their products, or their purchases. The bottom line? This relational emphasis can lead to respectful conversations (even when opinions differ), diplomatic dialogue and highly effective collaboration.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with a wide range of Hispanic leaders, and I’ve seen how these admirable traits have given them a significant competitive advantage. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month than to put some of their strongest characteristics in the spotlight.

Until next time,

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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