(Courtesy Juana Bordas)

Latina Leaders: Juana Bordas, and her new book, “The Power of Latino Leadership”

Juana Bordas says she was born to be a social worker, and at 70, she is proudly celebrating 50 years of social service. But Bordas has done much more than that, including writing a new book on Latino leadership with plenty of advice for young Latinos and Hispanics in the workforce.

“I saw at a young age that bringing people together empowered people,” says Bordas, who immigrated to Tampa, Florida from a small mining town in Nicaragua on a banana boat when she was nearly 4.

Her second book, “The Power of Latino Leadership: Culture, Inclusion, and Contribution,” hit shelves in May. And in addition to being president of Mestiza Leadership International in Denver, Bordas founded Mi Casa Women’s Center in 1976. Today, Mi Casa is recognized as a national model for women’s empowerment.

Bordas is also the founding president/CEO of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, and in 2000, she founded The Circle of Latina Leadership to train “the next generation of Latina Leaders.”

For many years, Bordas says, she wondered why she had never seen many Latinos in positions of power in the U.S. It was not  until she graduated and joined the Peace Corps in Chile, that her field of vision expanded. “I did things at 21 that you often don’t have a chance to do,” recalls Bordas. She worked with women organizing a baking and a knitting co-op, and then a welding co-op with the men. “That was an important moment for me – they changed, became leaders, and learned how to work together.”

Bordas obtained a master’s degree in social work and worked at the Wisconsin Department of Social Services. She also advised the government on public policy issues affecting youth. “I traveled around uniting kids – going into communities, meeting with educators and identifying youth leaders.”

Bordas says we are going through a generational shift in the way young people approach leadership, and she talks about this in her book.

“Millennials think very differently,” says Bordas. “They don’t have the same concept of one person being the leader…they are pretty lateral. They work with each other, but one doesn’t pop out as the leader. It’s a more collective form of leadership. I see they respect the older generation, and they like to have partnerships with people from different generations.”

Young Latinos today also feel the need to make a difference and make an impact.

“They were raised by women like me,” says Bordas, who explains she went to an all-girls high school in the 50’s because of her headstrong mother. “When I was 13, my immigrant mother talked to the mother superior to get me a scholarship.” Bordas worked her way through high school with the encouragement of her mom.

Today, it is Bordas encouraging and providing valuable advice to young Latinos.

“For Latinos to be successful, they need to learn how to promote themselves,” she says, explaining that many times Latinos are too modest and prefer to work collaboratively rather than take credit for their own work.

“In corporate America, that means you won’t get promoted,” she warns.  While corporate America has a lot to teach – how to be a leader, how to show up on time – Latinos bring a lot to the table through their cultural and social connections.

“I want people to understand the place Latinos will hold in that,’ says Bordas explaining Latinos already hold the model for global leadership and need to tap into that. “Latinos are connected to 26 countries…we are a humanistic culture where people come first. This country needs to start focusing on people, not profit…somos unicos.”

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