Cross Cultural Engagement: Leadership in Latino Cultures


As a result of the value placed on relationships, leadership develops differently in collectivist cultures compared to individualist cultures. In Latino cultures, building trust and growing in leadership happens over a long period of time. Leaders must prove themselves, by their words matching their actions. Contrary to individualistic cultures like the United States where leadership can be based on a catchy idea or charismatic delivery, leadership in Latino cultures is built on “personalismo”, “conciencia”, and “destino”.

Juana Bordas explains that respect is given to a Latino leader because of personalismo, which is based on “his character, the manner in which he lives, how he treats others, and the contribution he makes to the family and community. A leader’s credibility depends on having a reputation that he cares about others and treats everyone equally.”[1] Personalismo is something that is built over time through relationships and results.

While conciencia can be defined as consciousness or self-awareness, it is more than an understanding of self. “For Latinos, it includes integrating one’s cultural identity and knowing one’s roots and family heritage.”[2] The community is at the core of who you are. The individual is defined by his relationships with others.

Finally, destino is one’s life journey, his purpose or special calling, which is embraced and provides a clearer sense of direction. The concept of destino shows one of the foundational differences between individualist and collectivist cultures as each has a very different answer to the question, “how much control do I have over my life?” Bordas explains the difference, “The independent focus says, to a very great extent, I control my life, chose my experiences, and shape my destiny. I am the captain of my ship. Self-identity, self-determination, and self-interest are keystones in I cultures. Individuals believe freedom and personal choice forge one’s destiny or future…On the other hand, people from collectivist We cultures believe some things happen to them and accept that a life power and external influences affect their lives…. Latinos see life as an interchange between individual efforts and the experiences, gifts, surprises, and lessons it brings. I may be the captain of my own ship – but the sea of life determines much of my course.”[3]

Again, neither way is right or wrong, but it is important to understand leadership develops differently in different cultures.


[1] Bordas. Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 969.

[2] Bordas, Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 1093.

[3] Bordas, Juana. The Power of Latino Leadership, kindle 1261-1273.


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