Laura Santana loves talking leadership — and will happily do so in English, Spanish or French. She brings a breadth of experience and depth of knowledge to her senior faculty role with CCL, in which she works primarily with global clients.
Laura’s resume includes 18 years of expatriation and working with leaders and clients in 17 countries on four continents. Her work reflects her combined passions for adult development and cultural agility.
“Over the years, I have watched people shaken, or stretched, or moved by the idea that there might be something after the Great Man Theory — that a leader did it all by himself,” says Laura. “What is collaborative or shared leadership? How is it that leadership is working with and through other people to get results? How do we invite people to entertain new ways of looking at leading or leadership or relationships between people? When I get to facilitate these conversations, that’s one of the things that most excites and energizes me.”
Work Prior to CCL: Laura joined CCL in 2003 after 14 years in a similar role for TEAM INTERNATIONAL, a licensed CCL Network Associate in Mexico serving Latin America.
Highlights of current work. In 2009, Laura began working with an “amazing South American client.” Four years into a multi-tier initiative, 500 people have attended and continue to develop with our complex design. CCL has maintained contact with each one of them through coaching and additional follow-up experiences. An organizational leadership initiative and practice of leadership excellence is now underway.
“It took us one year to convince these senior leaders in Lima, Peru, that we would not impose US ethno-centric thinking about leadership upon them — that we would listen to them, that we would honor their expertise and their stories, that we would incorporate their best practices,” Laura explains. “Much of what we do is create the space to have conversations about what effective leadership looks like in a client’s culture, industry and markets.”
Laura, with colleagues David Dinwoodie and Enrique Alvarez, are actively conducting research in Latin America, including interviewing C-suite leaders and top women leaders about their leadership challenges. She and Dinwoodie recently completed the first program with a client in Bolivia.
On Global vs. Local Leadership. Having a broad global mindset is essential for working and leading cross-culturally. This involves willingness to suspend judgment and let go of cultural reductionism (i.e. “the Mexicans are this way”; “the French are like that”). The ability to investigate and explore is “a skill that travels well,” says Laura. “That being said, having lived in a culture and interacted with people from a culture is also very important. So cultural agility is both/and, not either/or.” You can read more about Laura’s view on cultural agility on Forbes.com: Five Ways To Boost Your Cross-Cultural Agility.
Other leadership interests. Laura often references “sustainability” — it’s a theme that cuts across all that she does. How do we sustain relationships with individuals? With partners and clients? How do we sustain leadership development — what are next steps for individuals and for organizations? How do we sustain our physical and mental energy? If we want to show up with vitality and energy as leaders, what do we need to do?
Digging into the current research and thinking about women and leadership, coaching women, designing and teaching leadership programs for women across regions are other important items on her agenda.
What she does away from work. Fitness, exercise and spending time in nature are priorities for Laura. She loves archeological trekking, hiking and ziplining wherever her travels take her. She’s a yoga practitioner and also passionate about providing music opportunities for school-age children in the Greensboro, NC, community where she now lives. She serves on the board of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and was president of the Greensboro Youth Symphony Orchestra Board.