Monthly Archives: January 2016

Leadership Series: Making the Case for Latino Leadership

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Within a generation, California and many parts of the nation will have to depend on well-prepared Latino leaders to ensure continued social and economic growth and stability.

Here’s what needs to happen: Smart, talented, and compassionate Latinos need to seek out leadership roles in business, education, politics, and community service, and, the business, education, political, and community service sectors need to seek out smart, talented, and compassionate Latino leaders.

It’s a simple formula.

The term Latino leader isn’t limited to those who represent just Latino interests. Latinos are capable of representing people of all backgrounds, be it racial, ethnic, social, or economic. When I use Latino leader, I’m talking about a leader who happens to be Latino, but provides leadership for an entire community.

Making the case to develop Latino leaders to be stewards of our community’s economic, political, and educational health is in the numbers.

According to the California Department of Education, 53% of students who attend public school today are Latino. That means that in the next twenty years or so, one out of every two workers in California will look like us. Economics require that those of working age carry the financial burden of keeping a community solvent.

To ensure a robust economy, it’s important that breadwinners represent the spectrum of workers from frontline employees to executives. If more than half of the population is under-educated and unprepared, thus under-employed, the economic impact on the state’s future could be catastrophic. That’s why it’s imperative that Latinos are prepared for all levels of employment, including leadership roles.

Here are some more numbers: Despite representing over half of the students in California, only 9% of college graduates, 18% of teachers, and 6% of education administrators are Latino. So what’s the deal? Our school system is preparing more than half of its students to be service sector workers, not managers and decision-makers. The better question is: Why is this happening?

I got an inside look on how school systems work while serving on the board of trustees at the largest high school district in California. With 26,000 students and a $220 million dollar budget, it’s a pretty big and complex operation. The district serves a majority of Latino neighborhoods in the city. Its demographics match the state’s numbers on Latino students, teachers, and administrators.

The most influential interest groups, employee bargaining groups and parent organizations, are mostly led by non-Latinos. Only one of the five current school trustees is Latino. This dynamic reflects the typical school district in California where the overwhelming majority of decision-makers doesn’t demographically represent the majority of its students.

The problem with this is that education leaders who aren’t Latino are more susceptible to making decisions based on preconceived notions about Latinos. Sociologists call this phenomenon inherent bias. These biases impact public policy decisions, class schedule assignments, student disciplinary action, and the allocation of resources, all of which results in disproportionate harm to half of the students.

I met the full force of the impact of how an unbalanced demographic relationship between students, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers in 2010 when I served as board president. A few years earlier, the district chapter of the student group Californians for Justice met with me to advocate for a policy that would make graduation requirements the same as eligibility standards for acceptance to University of California and California State University schools.

Makes sense, right? I thought so. When I was elected board president, I excitedly began to reach out to administrators, teachers, and my board colleagues to get buy-in for a policy proposal that connected high school graduation requirements to college prerequisites. I was met with immediate resistance. The stumbling block was a requirement to complete Algebra II.

Administrators counseled against moving too fast raising concerns about the lack of student preparation coming from middle school, especially schools with large Latino populations. Math teachers fiercely opposed the idea. The teacher’s union president, an Algebra teacher, sat across the table from me in a coffee shop lecturing with authority that “these kids” can’t do Algebra II.

Conversations with other trustees didn’t fare any better. Two of them wanted to “study” the issue further, a standard tactic to delay a policy proposal to death. One trustee expressed concerns that the policy would “force” every student to be on a college track. What about the students who wanted to learn a trade so they could begin working right after high school graduation, he asked. I knew who he was talking about.

Was this a case of inherent bias? You better believe it. Each one of these decision-makers raised concerns about Latino students’ ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. But I disagreed. I was one of those students. My high school counselor recommended that I consider learning a trade instead of going to college. Fortunately, that was a non-starter for my parents.

Because of my experience, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about Latino kids. There was no inherent bias driving my decision to fight for the more rigorous graduation requirements. I figured if I could complete a college track curriculum and succeed in college so could other students who grew up in neighborhoods like mine. So, I charged ahead to change the policy.

I learned that Latino leaders can deliberate about decisions without the filter of inherent bias in the way. With Latinos serving as decision-makers in business, politics, education, and community engagement, half of the population will have more opportunities to contribute to the success of the entire state.

The other half of the population will benefit as well from this kind of leadership. After a long and contentious campaign to raise graduation requirements in 2010, a board majority led the way to approving a policy that made college-prep classes the curriculum for all students enrolling in a district high school.

The Class of 2015 was the first class in the district’s history to complete a four-year program with every graduate eligible to apply to a University of California and California State University college.

That’s precisely why smart, talented, and compassionate Latinos need to seek out leadership roles and that’s why the community could use a bunch of smart, talented, and compassionate Latino leaders.


Next time on the Leadership Series: We’ll explore the success of an institution that isn’t hampered by inherent bias.

Leadership Series: The Path to the Corner Office

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Can you imagine yourself in the corner office with a great view, an expense account, an assistant, and company car?

How about banging the gavel as chair of a city commission or standing on the floor of the state legislature to make an important speech?

Maybe you want to be a school principal, a non-profit executive, or get that big promotion at work.

All of these high-profile positions require an aptitude for leadership. Becoming a successful leader requires great work product, strategic thinking, perseverance, and an ample supply of people skills. It also demands that you have the ability to bounce back from the failures that come with taking the risks necessary to succeed.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. It’s a tough business. can show you how to manage the complex world of effective leadership.

For almost 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve in many leadership roles (

I was 23 years old when I became the head coach of a high school varsity basketball team. I changed careers and worked my way through corporate middle management to eventually rise to vice president in a Fortune 100 company. I also served as board president for a large school district, and created the LLA Leadership Academy in collaboration with Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Through it all, I learned what it takes to lead.  I created the Leadership Series to share my experiences and my secrets for successfully navigating the path to the corner office.

While the concepts I discuss could benefit anyone with the ambition to be a leader, the series will focus on helping Latinos and Latinas reach their potential. That’s where my heart is. That’s my experience. That’s what I know how to do.

My inspiration for the Leadership Series comes from the many bright, talented, passionate and ambitious Latinas and Latinos who have crossed my path during many years of coaching emerging leaders.

I’ve worked with over 70 professional Latinas and Latinos who are mid-level corporate executives, non-profit organization executives, attorneys, elected public officials, and community activists. These talented people have been educated at elite private universities and public state universities. They’re leaders in the organizations they represent. Their gifts and capacity to lead are exceptional.

Even more inspiring is that they share the same humble beginnings that many of us do. The combination of working-class roots and a solid college education creates an opportunity for common sense leadership. Practical knowledge of how it all works and how to apply it for the common good will give rise to innovative, more compassionate, thought-leaders and decision-makers.

That’s where the Leadership Series comes in. By sharing my experiences and success secrets, I hope to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Latinas and Latinos are poised play a major role in what tomorrow looks like. If you want to be part of that future, stay tuned. The Leadership Series is for you.


What others say about Eddie García’s approach to leadership development:

“Eddie García brings a wealth of personal experience and leadership training development to his His advice and suggestions are a treasure trove for those wishing to become effective leaders.” ~Dr. Al Camarillo, Professor of History and Founder, Center for the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

“Eddie was one of the first people who believed in me and he became an integral part in my early development. He is an excellent facilitator and he not only teaches great lessons but he makes them fun and easy to comprehend. I didn’t just learn from his experiences but I also gained even more confidence in myself. Today I represent over 100,000 residents in one of the fastest growing urban centers in the United States.” ~Honorable Raul Peralez, Councilmember, District 3, City of San José

“Understanding Eddie García’s Four Pillars of Leadership Model is essential for anyone who wants to lead an organization. His experience as a leader in each of the Pillars gives students of his approach first-hand knowledge of how it works. ~Sandra García, Principal, Adelante Dual Language Academy; Named “2013 Principal of the Year” by the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce

“Eddie’s passion for leadership development in the Latino community is clear. I regularly hear from graduates of the LLA Academy who share stories of how they used the tools that they received from Eddie, to advance to the next level in their career or take on a civic leadership role.” ~Honorable Andrés Quintero, Trustee, Alum Rock Union School District Board of Trustees

“I’ve known Eddie since he was a corporate executive. His real-world experience as an effective strategist forms the foundation of his approach to teaching leadership and his unique capacity to work among diverse groups of people makes him an excellent leadership coach.” ~Maria Bonilla Giuriato, President, Bonilla Giuriato & Associates; former City Councilwoman, Salinas California

Eddie García has played a pivotal role in supporting my development as an educational leader. I believe so deeply in Eddie’s ability to develop quality leaders that I have hired him as a consultant to work with our student government.” ~Jeffery Camarillo, Founding Director, Luis Valdez Leadership Academy

“Eddie’s extensive experience in East San Jose combined with his tell-it-like-it-is coaching skills have helped me make a stronger impact in my community beyond my role as a school principal.” ~Daisy Barocio, Principal, Escuela Popular Dual Language Academy


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