Leadership in the Age of Multiculturalism with Juana Bordas · ShiftWorkPlace

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Ep100 Leadership in the Age of Multiculturalism with Juana Bordas


How to lead in the multicultural age.

Bio for Juana Bordas

Dr. Juana Bordas came to the U.S. on a banana boat from Nicaragua when she was three years old. She exemplifies the many contributions, resiliency, and determination of the immigrant spirit. She has been a women’s pioneer, designing and leading women’s programs and several national Latina leadership organizations. A pioneer and thought leader in the study of leadership, diversity, and organizational change, Dr. Juana Bordas is recognized as an elder and icon in the advancement of multicultural and inclusive leadership that includes the contributions of Latinos and communities of colour.

She has won many awards, and was the first Latina faculty at the Centre for Creative Leadership, where she trained executives. She is the recipient of the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from The International Leadership Association, previously awarded to thought leaders such as Peter Drucker, Robert Greenleaf, James McGregor Burns, and Margaret Wheatley.

Her groundbreaking book, initially published in 2013, The Power of Latino Leadership, Second Edition, Revised and Updated: Culture, Inclusion, and Contribution, has made inroads into the emerging Latino book market and is an acclaimed addition to diversity and inclusion work. It won the International Latino Book Award for leadership and the Nautilus Award for best Indigenous books.

In the second for the series, The Power of Latino Leadership, Dr. Bordas examines how expanding demographics, intergenerational leadership, economic power, international connections, and workforce participation position Latinos to be leaders in this century. She addresses how people of all ages can form partnerships and work together to build a more viable future.

Episode highlight

When you have a mother who is willing to do anything to set you up for success, then you have no option but to be successful. According to Juana, her mother had a grade-five education, but she was determined to give her all to ensure the narrative changed for her children, especially Juana. When they came to the U.S. from Nicaragua, Juana’s mom ensured that Juana had the best education. Looking at Juana now, we can comfortably say she made her mother proud.

In this episode, Juana shares her journey to becoming the great woman she is today. She also shares golden nuggets on multicultural age leadership. Listen to hear more.



  • “If you’re grateful, your cup runs over. You can be generous with people with your time and ideas because you’re not coming from a scarcity mentality. You’re coming from, I’m full, and I want to contribute and give.”
  • “Leadership always starts with you as a leader taking care of yourself so that you can give to others, and you can be available.”
  • “In service, you find greatness, and in service, you find your power.”
  • “Leadership is creating a society that takes care of its people.”


Childhood Incidents

As a child, Juana suffered from a cultural inferiority complex. She vividly recalls when she was invited to a party, and her mother took her to the store to buy a dress for the party. They bought a dress that they thought was the best for the party. When Juana got to the party, other girls were dressed in taffeta. She was embarrassed and ended up hiding in the bathroom all night. Juana struggled with the psychology of oppression. Her breakthrough came when she joined the Peace Corps, and she realized how rich her culture was. To her surprise, people from her traditions had written books, run counties, and even won Nobel prizes. According to Juana, her childhood was a training ground for greatness.

When Juana was 13, her mom got her on a bus, and they went to a school across town to meet the mother superior of a certain school. Juana’s mother shared her story with the mother superior, and she ended up getting half a scholarship for Juana. 

She also got Juana a job in a Catholic church that involved watching children during mass. She made $15 a month and gave it to the mother superior in her school so that she could continue going to school. All along, Juana had no idea that she was attending a prep school until 20 years later. 

Leadership style

The dance metaphor for Latinos in life is strong. For instance, looking at Juan’s life, her mom took her to the dance floor and left her there, trusting that her daughter would learn how to dance. The prep school extended a dance invitation to Juana; she accepted it and danced. The Latino way of looking at life is this: accepting a dance, paying attention to your dance partner, and your partner paying attention to you. It’s not just you going and beating your way through the jungle path and then standing at the top of the mountain and saying I did it.

What has Juana adopted from other cultures into her leadership style?

When Juana went to Chile, she realized there was a culture that cut across different Latino subgroups. In Chile, Juana worked in low-income areas. The one she worked in was 150,000 people; on the outskirts of the airport. Just like the Latinos, the people in Chile were kind and generous despite being poor. 

Having attended white schools for 16 years, Juana had lost her sense of self. Her experience in Chile reminded her of who she is and the richness of her culture. 

Temperaments and Personality

Being from the Caribbean coast, Juana is a mixture of many cultures, which gives her a hybrid vigour. She grew up as a highly energetic girl. Juana’s mother always made everything from scratch allowing her family to enjoy high-quality food, which she did come to appreciate later in life. 

Juana’s parents were working class. They didn’t exercise, but they were always active. Through their example, Juan learned to always be active. She does yoga and biking among other things. She believes that, as a leader, taking care of yourself is where leadership begins. 

Cultural Epiphanies

According to Juana, Latinos now have emerged into the intellectual class. You may not know that many Latinos are also Indigenous, but 60 years ago when John Echo Hawk and 20 Native Americans attended the University of New Mexico, this became the first inroads into Latino/Indigenous intellectualism. As the first American Indians to study American Indian law they were able to go back and win sovereign rights for their people because they could finally the treaties.  

Juana believes with the Latinos’ intellectual class, Latinos are going to be 78% of the new entries into the labour force, and in the next 10-20 years, they will be stepping into leadership at a much higher level because they integrating both their cultural assets with that which they’ve learned in mainstream universities and educational institutions. 

What Brings the Best out of Juana?

Juana has a deep love for humanity. Whenever she works with people, the first thing she does is develop a connection with them. Her desire is not to be a leader but to form a partnership where they energize, learn, support, and see the best in each other. 

Soapbox Moments

Juana invites us to be part of the multicultural age because diversity is the next stage in human evolution. 


Juana Bordas is a woman on a mission! Bringing Latino cultural leadership styles to North American organizations and having Latino women in positions of leadership are a part of that far-reaching mission. Her diligence in pursuing these goals has earned her many accolades and continues to fuel her speaking and consulting career. I particularly enjoyed Juana’s energy, passion, and enthusiasm, which infuse everything she says and does.

Three Tips I got from my conversation with Juan:

  1. Energy is not free. You must work for it.
  2. In leadership, diversity is our greatest strength.
  3. You can never pour from an empty cup. You need to take care of yourself first. 

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