I hope that each of us eventually comes to that dawning moment where we realize that the world is a much bigger place than we ever realized. When it comes, it can be very humbling as we come to understand that our way of doing and thinking isn’t everyone else’s way, that our own personal history isn’t entirely accurate, and that there is so much more to learn than we ever before realized.
If we are willing to listen and work at understanding, we enrich ourselves, can live more fully, and can become far more effective leaders. Today’s book review subject, Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age – New Approaches to Leadership from Latino, Black, and American Indian Communities by Juana Bordas is one tool to help growing leaders along that journey.
A little transparency: Years ago, when I first picked up this book, I was concerned that Bordas was committing a blunder in reductionist labeling. After all, none of my brown-skinned friends reduce simply to a label of “salsa” and some of my african-american friends would not take it well if you assume they’ve all got “soul”. However, I would encourage the reader who is concerned about simplistic stereotyping to move past these conventions. They are simply useful concepts for representing generalized culturally-relevant concepts. After reading Salsa, Soul, and Spirit, I do not for a minute believe Bordas would commit or countenance such stereotyping.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the book. Salsa, Soul, and Spiritis about effective leadership. Bordas describes her own life journey moving from Nicaragua to the United States and her experience growing up in the United States, learning the ways of her new home, and succeeding while remaining close to her own roots. Throughout the book, she draws out leadership values from various cultural traditions. At the top of the list are principles such as:
- Real leaders serve their community, not just themselves
- Leadership credibility derives from the people being led
- Effective leaders learn from the past and honor the values of those they lead
- Effective leaders value generosity, hope, thankfulness, and forgiveness
- Effective leaders work with the collective of which they are a part (the collective does not work for the leader)
Each of these concepts is examined through the lens of a cultural tradition where it is particularly valued and practiced. Put together, the list is not just a list of good multicultural leadership – it’s good leadership, period. These are characteristics of true servant leaders. In fact, while the book’s title describes these as “new” leadership approaches, they’re not really new as much as neglected.
I recommend Salsa, Soul, and Spiritfor any leader or manager who wants to lead effectively and particularly for those from any background who are just starting to realize how big our world really is.
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David shares twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential.