In my March column (“Detecting and Developing Latino Leadership”), we learned how to spot leaders among your Latino workforce. Let’s now take a serious look at how to develop Latino leadership.

You can be great at finding talent, but if you don’t know how to coach that talent to reach its maximum potential, it does you very little good. At best, your people will be operating on their natural abilities, but these abilities will not be honed nor maximized in your organization.

I think the biggest problem most companies are having with the development of Latino leaders is that they simply have the wrong people in key leadership positions in the first place. But, for a moment, let’s just assume that you have the right people in place and they just need training. What do you do?

You need to have a formal and structured manager-in-training program for your company. Either you have to develop a program or you have to purchase one that is already developed. Leadership, as I said, is a skill. Skills can and need to be taught.

I recognize that most of what I am going to say in this article also applies to your American supervisors. Leadership is leadership, no matter what country you are from or what language you primarily speak.

In order to develop great leaders in your company, you must train candidates in the following five areas:

• Character and ethics.
• Communication skills.
• Organizational skills.
• Management skills.
• Negotiation skills.

Character and Ethics

Some people say that you cannot train character and ethics. They argue that this is a personal characteristic, not a leadership skill. They are wrong. To be an outstanding leader, a person must be trustworthy, and to be trustworthy, one must have integrity and ethics in business. So, how do you teach someone to be trustworthy?

First of all, you lead by example. If you, as a business leader, do not always tell the truth to your people, or if you ask your management team to tell “white lies” for you, then you are teaching the people that you tolerate a lack of character and ethics. This is critical training. If you want honesty and integrity in your organization, you must first be honest and ethical yourself.

Secondly, you teach character and ethics. Ask (require!) your people to read books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Good to Great. Both of these books are readily available in Spanish. These books teach the basic principles of ethics and character in life and business. In your leadership meetings you can also ask your people to talk about struggles they face with employees in the area of honesty and integrity.

This area of character and ethics is all about personal growth, reading, friendships, self-view, personal and vocational goal setting, etc. This is the basis of all leadership, and you should be teaching this by example and make it a focus of your leadership meetings.

Recognize that some of your Latino workers may have been raised in Latin American countries with rampant corruption in their political and business cultures. Now, please do not think I am impugning all Latino people here because I am not, but the fact is that many people have lived in an environment of political and business corruption, and you need to make sure that they clearly understand your expectations in this area. Again, this is not to imply that any of your people lack the ability to understand and exemplify ethical behavior, it is only to say that the examples we have seen in some Latin American countries have been sadly lacking, and this area should be openly discussed without offending or implicating anyone.


Listening skills, group communication techniques, how to hold an effective meeting, how to give a speech, etc., are the focus here.

All leaders must be good communicators. Latinos, generally speaking, are not bashful about saying what they need to say to another Latino, but many (if not most) Latinos tend to be pretty quiet around American management. One of the main problems within the Latino supervisory force is caused by overstating an instruction or simply being too harsh. Poor communication skills can cause an undue amount of turnover as many employees, though they appear very tough on the surface, are, actually very sensitive to harsh criticism.

Try doing problem-solving role-plays with your leadership team to explore the best methods for training, correcting and disciplining workers. In these meetings, you should specifically emphasize listening and response skills. Teach your people to respond, not react. This is subtle but important. Too many supervisors react in harsh, angry tones when confronted with a challenging situation. All of us need to learn to respond in a respectful manner in all types of situations in the workplace.

Organizational Skills

This encompasses items such as personal organization, managing one’s time, using a calendar and agenda correctly, organizing workflow, and organizing training processes and management meetings. These are skills you should include in all your management training.

You need to teach organizational and time-management skills to your Latino supervisors, as well as everyone on your staff. Recognize that some Latinos may be the product of a much more free-flowing society that does not place nearly as much emphasis on planning for the future as the American society does. Again, I do not mean to imply that Latinos are disorganized or lack respect for time; I simply reiterate that the methods, goals and objectives of the company should be made clear to all employees.

If you keep it simple in your own training, this will set a model for simplicity and effectiveness in your own supervisors. All good training is interactive and is kept simple. I remind you of two famous sayings in the English language that will help you: “It as easy as 1, 2, 3,” and “It’s as simple as A, B, C.” Do your training in sets of three and you will find it easier to understand and apply the lessons learned. Train your people to train others this way as well.


Recruiting, hiring, training, retaining, upward management and firing are the essential topics here. It goes without saying that supervisors must properly manage their team. This involves the use of specific skills and methods. Your company needs to have specific processes laid out for your supervisors regarding hiring, training and, yes, unfortunately, firing. This is for the good of all employees and can help ensure your profit and protect your company.

Does your company have these procedures clearly spelled out? Do all of your supervisors and employees understand these processes? Do they know what qualities to look for in a prospective employee? There are far too many companies whose employee roster is simply being filled up with friends and family members. Make sure the employees you hire have the necessary qualifications to begin work with your company and get the training necessary to make them top-flight additions to your staff.

Teach your staff specific people and organizational management skills. Make sure you have your processes clearly developed and taught. This is the only way to a solid, low-turnover organization.

Oh, by the way, management skills have a lot to do with people skills. Dovetail your management sessions with your lessons on communication. Teach your people to be good listeners, to be good teachers, to care about their people.

Negotiation Skills

Cultivating “win-win” scenarios and developing long-term partnerships rather than short-term gains should be a key part of your training in negotiation skills.

Salespeople are not the only people who negotiate. Supervisors negotiate all the time with employees, contractors and inspectors. Teach your leaders to negotiate long-term “win-win” agreements with these people.

Teach your people that it is not always best to bury the other person in a negotiation. It is not always best to get everything you can in a negotiation. If you or they do this, well, what’s left for the next go around? Nada, nothing.

Include negotiation skills in your leadership training.

Some Latinos are accustomed to a lot of bartering. It’s quite the game. This is part of our culture. The key here is for you to teach your people this concept of “win-win.” They must understand that we do not want to take everything we can get because, by doing so, we then annihilate our counterpart, thus leaving nothing for future engagements or business dealings.

I have some exciting news for you! My company, Bilingual America, in cooperation with CertainTeed, has developed a complete leadership training course for Latino supervisors in Spanish. It is an outstanding course that teaches Latinos how to lead in the American enterprise.

I have a special offer for you. I’ll send you a free 15-minute video (in English), either on DVD by mail, or over the Internet, to show you this leadership course called, “Líderes Exitosos”(this means “Successful Leaders” in English). The course is taught in Spanish and, yes, I’ll be shameless here - I wrote it and I teach it. It contains six hours of great leadership training for your present and future Latino leaders. Just write me an e-mail message at the address below telling me if you want to receive it via regular mail on DVD, or via the Internet. Put “Requesting Leadership Demo” in the subject line. If you want it by mail, send your address as well. Of course, you’ll get it faster over the Internet. Ah, the beauty of technology!

You must detect and develop your Latino leadership if you want a healthy company for the long haul. As the saying goes, “Everything rises and falls with leadership.” Make sure your company rises to the top.