Aurelia Flores: What is Leadership?


Published March 21, 2012

| Fox News Latino

When we say ‘leadership,’ what does that mean, exactly?  How do we embody the qualities of a leader, and show that we are ready to take our career to the next level?

This may be particularly important right now, as a survey reported in this past week states that, “lack of potential leaders is the most pressing human resource challenge organizations expect to face in 2012.”

So, in part, it’s up to us to show that we, as Latinos, are ready to step up to the challenge. 

I dare say, this is a challenge for us in the future, in general, as Latinos will be the bulk of the growth in the work force over the coming generation.

Why do I know this? Well, let’s look at the numbers.

Right now, two employees are leaving the workforce for every new one entering. 

As of last year in the U.S., the growth in the 65 and over age group is increasing at a faster rate than that of the 20-to-64 age group. 

That means the group of those who are in retirement age is growing faster than the group of people who are in the age group traditionally thought of as those in the work force.

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Between 2015 and 2020, the 65-and-over age group will increase at twice that of the 20-to-64 age group.  And between 2020 and 2025, the 65-and-over age group will increase at four times that of the 20-to-64 age group.

What does this mean?  The aging of the U.S. workforce is a reality we’re living in RIGHT NOW.

However, these numbers are for the population as a whole

When it comes to Latinos, however, the rate of growth in the Latino labor force exceeds that of any other group in the U.S. 

Latinos are the only group in the current U.S. labor market that continues to grow in a substantial way.

Let me say that again, because it bears repeating:  Latinos are the ONLY group in the current U.S. labor market that continues to grow in a substantial way.

Therefore, it is not only important for us, but for the country as a whole, to be ready to take on leadership roles and prepare ourselves for growth in the workforce and as a crucial part of the nation’s economy.

It is up to US to learn how to lead in the labor force of the future.

So, back to my original question -- what does leadership mean? 

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A leader’s effectiveness overall, as defined by research over the last 30 years, is exemplified by the following actions. 

Top 16 Competencies Leaders Exemplify Most:

  • Takes Initiative
  • Practices Self-Development
  • Displays High Integrity and Honesty
  • Drives for Results
  • Develops Others
  • Inspires and Motivates Others
  • Builds relationships
  • Collaboration and Teamwork
  • Establishes Stretch Goals
  • Champions Change
  • Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues
  • Communicates Powerfully and Prolifically
  • Connects the Group to the Outside World
  • Innovates
  • Technical or Professional Expertise
  • Develops Strategic Perspective

Interestingly, women tend to rank better than men in many of these competencies, even in those areas that may not be seen as women’s strengths, such as taking initiative, and driving for results.

However, the extent to which Latinos use the above competencies has not yet been studied extensively, and my personal hypothesis is that we also do things very well in the workplace. In part, because in my experience I have seen that we Latinos, like women referenced in the study above, “…feel the constant pressure to never make a mistake, and to continually prove our value to the organization.”

Given all of these statistics and facts, it means we need to learn how to put into practice in our own lives the leadership qualities listed above. 

We’ll be talking more about what some of these competencies mean as a practical matter in the upcoming weeks.  But for now, think about how YOU can display, and strengthen your own leadership qualities in the workplace. 

What do you do best?  What do you want to take on next?

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website,, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.

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