New Research on Latino Leadership in Kansas
The Latino population in Kansas grew by 25% from 2010-2020, accounting for 13% of the population or 375,000 people. The Kansas Leadership Center’s aspiration is to serve all Kansans through leadership and civic engagement initiatives. Approximately 8% of KLC participants are Hispanic/Latino. There are likely multiple reasons that account for this gap. One interpretation is that many Latinos do not see themselves as being leaders in Kansas organizations and communities.
The Third Floor Research team (a partnership between KLC and K-State’s Staley School of Leadership Studies) was curious to learn more about Latino leadership to advance KLC’s mission, instruct workforce development, and catalyze civic engagement. Elisa Adriasola, a professor and leadership scholar in Santiago, Chile, joined the team to lead this research project. Dr. Adriasola brought invaluable experience in understanding the role that identity plays in developing leadership. She designed a detailed survey that 470 Latinos in Kansas completed.
The study produced a host of significant findings about Latino Leadership in Kansas. Here are three of the highlights that have generated the most interest:
- Positive emotions about cultural heritage matter
A person with a positive emotional connection to their Latino heritage is more inclined to think positively about leadership and see themselves as a leader.
- Leadership is about responding to others’ needs and achieving common goals
A majority of Latinos view Latino and non-Latino leaders differently, with dedication, dynamism, and sensitivity being the highest rated attributes for Latino Leaders. Latino leaders are seen as responding to others’ needs and achieving common goals.
- Obligation and passion motivate Latinos to lead
A primary motivation to lead is out of obligation. Often described in family terms, as in “a parent in my family worked on my behalf so now it is my duty to lead.” Also, the motivation to lead is due to a passion for the activity of leadership.
Combination and Complexity of Latino Identities
In considering these findings, we should stress that no single identity expresses the range of experience, perception and attitudes of Latinos in Kansas. Nearly two out of three respondents reported a combined identity of American and Latino elements, while others identify primarily as Latino and a smaller group saw themselves primarily as American. While not absolute, these three identities can help us understand, interpret and account for differences in leadership perceptions and attitudes of Latinos in Kansas as well as shed light on how leadership is exercised within the workplace and community.
Suggestions from our Research
Given these findings and the different identities noted, the report offers suggestions and recommendations to foster environments that celebrate and include the diversity Latinos bring to their communities and the workplace in Kansas. It is our aspiration that our research will inform workforce development and civic engagement practices so that more Latinos see themselves as leaders in Kansas organizations and communities.
General Considerations for a Workplace or Community Setting
- If you are a manager or a community leader, it is important to understand that individuals from Latino backgrounds may have different emotional connections and experiences regarding their workplaces and communities. Specifically, emphasizing a Latino background may be valuable and motivational for some individuals, but not for others.
- Create positive workplace and community environments that foster and welcome individuals from both Latino and non-Latino backgrounds, and allow for diversity, highlighting those aspects that connect, rather than separate, individuals from different communities.
How Might Our Research Translate to a Workplace or Community Setting
IN THE WORKPLACE
Support employees from Latino backgrounds to help build positive emotional connections and experiences to both Latino and non-Latino American communities. This will help to strengthen pride in all American identities, Latino and non-Latino alike. Specifically:
- Foster a workplace culture that recognizes and celebrates cultural differences that employees and volunteers bring to their roles.
- Create opportunities for rapport-building and getting to know colleagues better. If you are a manager or supervisor, be open and transparent, in order to create trust and understanding among employees.
IN THE COMMUNITY
- Welcome all ethnic groups and create a welcoming space for individuals to voice their opinions and concerns.
- Encourage better ways to communicate ideas to ensure that differences in the community are highlighted.
- Focus on valuing both what unites and what differentiates, to foster a balance in the evolution of the community to become a place that welcomes all and leaves no one behind.
Take Your Next Step
Want to Learn More?
Learn more about this study and findings by downloading our report.
Check out our leadership books in Spanish.
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