Serving Justice Through Leadership

Serving Justice Through Leadership

Serve. Lead.
by Shabnam Banerjee-McFarland

As we reflect on the last few years, the scale of global injustice can sometimes feel overwhelming and even paralyzing. It’s clear that the world is in desperate need of a new leadership paradigm—a model that takes an inside-out approach, giving leaders tools to better understand themselves as leaders and to develop a higher capacity for supporting passion and purpose among those they lead.

We must now ask ourselves, what kind of leader does the world need? The answer: A servant.

Servant leadership is not a new concept, but it is nevertheless revolutionary, and perhaps more importantly, enduring. A common misconception about servant leadership is that only people in traditional leadership roles can practice it. This fundamental misunderstanding about the core principles of servant leadership distracts us from what it’s about — service. When acting in the service of others, we inspire a shift in perspective that puts everyone on the same playing field, with a shared vision.

The servant leadership model, rooted in the commitment of serving first, and leading second, is a proven and effective path for aspiring leaders to begin where they are. With this model, servant leaders can enable change in their organizations, and ultimately strengthen interpersonal relationships, teams, and the organizational culture so that people come first. Putting people first, building relationships built on mutual respect, and nurturing teams that have high levels of trust are all integral values of the servant leadership model that can offer pathways toward solutions to global problems.

Revolutionizing leadership toward a just end requires centering service, each of us empowering and supporting each other with a common vision to create a world that works for all. Servant leaders are tasked with setting this visionary direction, establishing the values to guide the path, and setting goals to serve as the milestones that measure impact. Then, as servant leadership expert Ken Blanchard puts it, they get out of the way. Their roles shift to supporting the execution of the vision, serving team members who are executing the vision, and allowing them to be accountable for their own success.

Though this is definitely easier said than done, identifying the two key principles of servant leadership, vision and action, is part and parcel to enacting change; they can’t exist without each other. However, through living the key principles of servant leadership, we can make a difference in the companies, organizations, and communities that we are all part of.

Setting the Vision

Ken Blanchard, bestselling author of Servant Leadership in Action and longtime evangelist of Servant Leadership, frames how to set the vision like this. He reflects, “I love the saying, ‘a river without banks is a large puddle.’ The banks permit the river to flow; they give direction to the river. Leadership is about going somewhere; it’s not about wandering around aimlessly. If people don’t have a compelling vision to serve, the only thing they have to serve is their self-interest.”

The most significant impact that we can make is within organizations that have a shared vision, that considers and supports members to be in community with one another. Aimlessness and serving self-interests leads to a community, and even a world, disconnected and divided. When the banks runneth over, the puddle can make us feel like we’re drowning without a purpose. Servant leaders not only act in the service of those they lead but also encourage people to contemplate their purpose, and manifest a vision around this purpose. Setting the vision is more than the performance goals or managing relationships, but is instead, about empowering team members to use their unique skills and talents to raise the tide for all boats.

Naming this shared vision that leverages our unique purposes and talents, can lead to a groundswell of systemic change. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, has openly and boisterously committed to leading by example to close the gender pay gap. What started with acknowledging some uncomfortable yet widespread truths about pay inequity, has transformed into including the voices of the women affected across the company and moving toward action. By building the banks around the river of change, Benioff and the culture of Salesforce, communicate that sharing a vision of equal pay can lead to a revolution.

Service in Action

Benioff and Salesforce aren’t alone in acknowledging that a shared vision of equality can lead to tangible change that serves everyone. Michael C. Bush, CEO of A Great Place to Work, the organization that puts together Fortune’s annual Great Place to Work list, highlights that the primary barriers to action, are when leaders fail to acknowledge, or even worse ignore or suppress, the differences in experiences in an organization. He writes in A Great Place to Work for All, “Employees are less likely to be fully engaged or productive if they perceive an unequal playing field, one where they are less welcome to play an important role.”

When Benioff was confronted with the reality, that across the board women were getting paid less, his initial response was disbelief. It was in this shift of perspective to listening to his employees and incorporating their talents and purposes, that they were able to move toward action and bring in team members that could mitigate the problem and develop an equitable plan. Action, when framed in terms of a vision set by the servant leader, is dynamic and forward facing. When leaders choose ignorance and instead lead with their own self-interests, organizations become stagnant, toxic, and unproductive places.

Service as the antidote to self-deception

The Arbinger Institute, a global consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations make changes in mindset to drive results, addresses what can happen when leaders get in their own way and inhibit equal treatment in any organization. Their seminal and bestselling book, Leadership and Self-Deception, outlines just how calamitous a deceptive leader can be, arguing, “of all the problems in organizations, self-deception is the most common and most damaging.” When leaders can’t acknowledge their own self-deception, let alone how they may be deceiving others, they stand in opposition to servant leadership that advocates for getting out of the way so that others can shine. More than that, they tend to lean into visions that are misguided and create plans around these visions that leave their employees and members of their community without a sense of purpose or empowerment.

Should Benioff have decided that the gender pay gap was not a problem for him, and, therefore, not a problem at all, he would have rejected servant leadership and perpetuated cycles of disengagement, lack of vision, and most egregiously, inequality. Companies have the power to change the world, but in order to do so, they need to change their approach to leadership. This isn’t just fodder or fluff, as Ken Blanchard points out, many of history’s greatest leaders – Lincoln, Mandela, and MLK – all “possessed tremendous strength along with a powerful capacity for caring.” Adopting the tried-and-true concepts of servant leadership, vision, and action can lead to a future in which we are all in a community with each other and serving one another.

This post was originally published on, ‘Serving Justice Through Leadership’.

There Are Conservatives, Liberals and Then There Are Latinos

There Are Conservatives, Liberals and Then There Are Latinos

By David Conde

As the political parties begin to engage for the 2020 national elections, there appears to be what may be considered, a perplexing circumstance to many that sees at least one third of Latinos still in the Republican column. This is no doubt a challenge to Democrats that are used to seeing up to 90% support from the African American community.

A national study has documented the group at the core of this tendency to be Latino evangelicals and veterans. This however, does not tell the whole story as the other two thirds can also be in play depending on the social and political circumstance.

The fundamentalist and evangelical movements have captured a large segment of the Latino population because it represents a true alternative that replaces the traditional Catholic hierarchical system with an individual and direct relationship to God. You would think that a more individually empowered worship leads to a more Liberal political attitude that permits thinking beyond the confines of traditional religious structures.

But that is not the case in America as Protestantism with evangelical tendencies are at the heart of its religious tradition. Latinos captured into that realm find themselves managed by powerful structures based on literal reading of the Bible.

So, one third of Latinos have replaced their Catholic conservative system with a Protestant one with an added understanding around the notion that God can use evil and evil people in the process of doing his will. That is why it does not bother these Latino evangelicals to politically support evil people because in the grand scheme of Heaven, they are doing God’s will.

Things can get even more complicated with Latinos, especially Latino immigrants, because the notion of hierarchical social relationships is till very strong. In this system, authority tends to flow vertically in a process that provides support for those perceived to be above one in family, social, industry and political relationships in return for protection of interests.

Latinos after World War II wanted to break with that way of thinking as they sought to create group pressure based on the empowerment of individuals. In this circumstance, people that saw themselves as key to transforming our society made Cesar Chavez and his farm worker organization powerful and successful.

The Chicano Movement especially, in the cities of America, sought to establish a new order designed to break destructive stereotypes and create identity based on history, culture, language, the land and a context in which the individual could have and take the opportunity to prosper.

To be sure, it is in the Latino heritage to be Conservative but with a Liberal bent that insists on the creation of structural space in the mainstream of American life.

There is no substitute for Latino leadership in a country that so desperately needs direction. That direction will not necessarily come from one political persuasion or another.

The reason why two thirds of Latinos are in the Democratic Party today is because Republicans have decided that this community represents an existential political threat to Conservatives. President Reagan had it right when he said that in their hearts Latinos are Conservative. However, Latinos are a long way from putting their stamp on the country and thus having something to “conserve.”

Until that moment comes, Latinos will be mostly operating in the Liberal mode that shapes the future of the United States. In the final analysis however, whether Liberal or Conservative, Latinos will be following their own political star in search of greatness.

What Can Nature Teach Us About Resilience and Diversity?

What Can Nature Teach Us About Resilience and Diversity?

By Dr. Kathleen Allen (Dr. Allen will be a part of the 2019 Lideramos Webinar Series – Stay TUNED!)

Nature banks on diversity. It is one of Nature’s design principles. Nature’s purpose is to create conditions conducive to the life of future generations.

As ecosystems move from monocultures to diverse species and plant life, they become more resilient and can recover faster from disruptions in their environment. That is why nature banks on diversity. It helps ecosystems become more resilient and helps nature achieve its purpose.

It is interesting that we understand this relationship between resilience and diversification when we think of investment strategies. As we diversify our financial portfolios, our investments are more resilient. An example in nature is a prairie that produces food at multiple times of the summer. This kind of ecosystem is more resilient to a hail storm than a neighboring corn or soybean field. The corn can be wiped out by hail and not recover because is a monocrop. A prairie can be damaged but the diverse plant life will still flourish and provide nutrients to the species that feed off it.

We Need Frame Diversity Differently in Our Organizations

Most of our organizations that want to support diversity and celebrate diverse people and points of view are trying to help people become more tolerant, open, and accepting. Nature would ask a different question and perhaps approach diversity initiatives a different way.

If we learned a lesson from nature about diversity, we might ask “what are the risks of homogeneity?” instead of how we become more welcoming to diversity. By understanding the risks to the ecosystem or organization in homogeneity, we might approach diversity as a critical business strategy to remain relevant in the future. In nature, ecological systems grow more diverse as they evolve. This helps species develop food webs to sustain their nutrients. If one species or food source collapses, others in their food web will continue to supply nutrients so the species survives.

Becoming More Diverse is a Natural Result of Evolution

Instead of asking how can we become more diverse, we should be asking what is stopping our natural evolution as an organization? Nature is a living system. The increasing diversity is how it adapts to growing complexity and evolution. If our organizations are struggling with diversity, it might help us to look for ways we are stopping the evolution of our organization and what are the risks of that behavior to the future ability for our organization to thrive?

Taylor and Wacker wrote a book titled The 500-Year Delta: What Happens After What Comes Next (1997).  In their book, they talk about institutional diversity as a critical dimension of organizations that want to thrive in the future. Their argument is that if your organization is filled with white men, they won’t see needs that emerge from the perspective and experience of women, or Latinos, or other ethnic groups. The innovations that are driven by seeing an unmet need means that people who experience that need will see it first and respond to it first. They will be first in the marketplace, not an organization whose primary focus is on the unmet needs of people just like them.

As our world continues to connect across a global economy, we hamstring our organization’s evolution when we are a monoculture, i.e. an organization led predominately by people who look the same.

Dr. Kathleen E. Allen writes a blog on leadership and organizations that describes a new paradigm of leadership that is based on lessons from nature and living systems. She is the author of Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World (2018) and President of Allen and Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in leadership, innovation, and organizational change. You can sign up for her blog on her website:

It’s time for a National Anthem for Latinos

It’s time for a National Anthem for Latinos

By Juana Bordas

Way back in 1919 the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) adopted the song “Lift every voice and sing” as the Black national anthem. Since that time, the song has inspired hope and faith because despite past trials and tribulations, Black people survived and are now thriving: “The rising sun of a new day begun.” “Lift every voice and sing” has been a source of pride and solidarity for Black people for almost 100 years.

Latinos were only declared a minority from the 1980 census on. We are in still in the identity formation stage. The adoption of a national anthem that speaks to our uniqueness and common experiences would serve as a source of unity, pride, and bring deeper meaning to what it means to be Latino. But what song could bring the vast Latino diversity together?

In the 1960’s when the humble farm workers marched with César Chávez advocating for decent wages and working conditions, they sang De Colores. A traditional and beloved song, thought to have been brought over from Spain in the 16th century, De Colores literally means ‘of many colors’.

The song celebrates the incredible beauty of life’s diversity – the multicolored birds, the radiant flowers, and the luminescent rainbow. The chorus says that just as life by its very nature is so colorful, so too great love embraces people of many colors.

This song resonates with our Latino soul because we are De Colores. The many colors of humanity are right across the family dinner table. Our diversity is rooted in our mixed racial, cultural, and historical heritage.

Latinos are not a race. Much like the Jewish community, Latinos are an ethnic or cultural group bound together by the Spanish language, a shared history and heritage, a revered spiritual tradition, and common values that stem from both our Spanish and indigenous roots.

Latinos are a rich culture of synthesis and fusion that celebrate de colores – the radiant rainbow of humanity. Our love for diversity is also apparent in our bienvenido or welcoming spirit. And in what I call the Latino golden rule: Mi Casa es su Casa. These dynamics fashion a culture that is exquisitely diverse, inclusive, and celebrates people’s uniqueness. Furthermore since Latinos are a culture not a race and culture is leaned people can become Latino by Affinity or Corazón.

This moment in history when the Latino community is coming of age is also the time when our multicultural nation and global community is rapidly emerging. Leaders must ensure that people of different races, ages, nations, sexual orientations, religions and cultures work and live peacefully together.

Embracing the spirit of De Colores offers a pathway to accomplish this – to integrate our kaleidoscope society and welcome the gifts of all people.

Yes! The emergence of a De Colores America will be a defining characteristic of the 21st century. Because of our inherent diversity, Latinos will be at the headwaters of this transformation.

We will be a model for building the multicultural society. We can show people how celebrating De Colores – brings beauty, vitality, joy and grace to life.

For this reason, I believe De Colores should be the Hispanic national anthem.

The above text are excerpts from “The Power of Latino Leadership” by Juana Bordas

Juana Bordas is the president of Mestiza Leadership International. She is an activist, author, and diversity aficionada.

Latinos are Turning 40!

Latinos are Turning 40!

By Juana Bordas

Many people do not know that until the 1970 census there was no group identified as Hispanic or Latino! Filling out my first census in 1960, I looked for a category that acknowledged ancestry. I felt a thud in my heart as I checked the Caucasian box and heard my sweet grandmother’s voice, “Never forget where you came from.” But remembering your history and embracing your identity is difficult when there is no acknowledgement that you people even exist.

Considering the growing influence of Hispanics today it is hard to believe that this growing demographic wasn’t officially recognized until The Office of Management and Budget Directive 15 on May 12, 1977 added Hispanic as a racial and ethnic category to the US Census. From then on there would be five colors in the US palette: American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, White and Hispanic.

It is not that Hispanics didn’t exist before then, our heritage goes back to before the US was a nation. Fully one-third of territorial US was Mexico until 1848 and this is reflected in the name of our states, such as Colorado, Arizona and Montana; and cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio and Las Vegas. Hispanic heritage gives the Southwest its distinct cultural flavor.

For the past 500 years, Hispanics made great contributions to our country. Our leaders have worked endlessly to equalize economic, educational, and political disparities. The addition of Hispanic to our nation’s census signified that Hispanics were recognized as an integral part of our nation. OMD Directive 15 legitimized Hispanics.

So let’s begin the birthday fiesta. US Latinos have just turned 40! But wait – many people still wonder – what exactly is a Hispanic?

Hispanics are a rich culture of synthesis and fusion. Most claim a mixed heritage of Indigenous people of the Americans with European, mainly the Spanish, but many Latinos have African or German or Irish, and others who settled the Americas. Additionally, Latinos are a culture or ethnic group and can be of any race.

Add to the mix that Hispanics come from 24 countries and a majority still identifies with their cultural of origin – and it really gets interesting. For instance, I identify as Brown and am Nicaraguan by birth. I come from Indigenous, French, and Spanish decedents, am Mexican by culture, and a US citizen who loves this country. I served in the Peace Corps in Chile and am Chilean by corazón or heart. Complexity and diversity are at the heart of Latino identity and we embrace it!

If you are not Latino you may ask why is this important? Well Hispanic heritage is part of our history, but Latinos will also shape our future. Latinos have the highest labor market participation; they are the fastest growing small business sector; and in 2015, Hispanics buying power was $1.3 trillion, an amount larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Australia or Spain.

Just as important, Hispanics are adding sabor and gusto through their food, music, art, and cultural values such as inclusion, generosity, family, community, service, and civic engagement. This influence will continue: one third of Latinos are under 18 and 20% of Millennials are Latino. Young Latinos will ensure that our influence and impact continue to enrich America..

LIDERAMOS has been launched to ensure that Latinos are prepared to lead the 21st century by connecting Latino leadership programs to learn from each other and improve their programs. LIDERAMOS will also assist communities who desire to launch a program access the resources, information, and technical assistance they need to do this effectively.

Forty years is a short time for a people to forge their identity especially considering the multifaceted Latino experience. Latino leaders today are challenged to forge unity from diversity and to integrate a collective identity from the diverse Latino familia. Our birthday celebration signals a new maturity and the time for coming together. LIDERAMOS will be the catalyst to move our leadership and influence forward. Adelante!