He is only 28 years old, and has just become acting president and executive director of the largest Latino organization in North Carolina, El Centro Hispano. Eliazar Posada will be in this position until the end of June and then, who knows. He says he wants to have options come the summer, but most importantly, “I want to leave Pilar with a better organization when she comes back than when she left.” Pilar is Pilar Rocha, El Centro Hispano’s Executive Director and President for the last 11 years, who is now on sabbatical. She knows she’s left her organization in great hands and, after a year preparing for this, everything is in place. Now is Eliazar Posada’s turn.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
You might recognize Eliazar from this panel he was a part of at UnidosUS’s 2019 Changemakers Summit, or this other one he participated in at our 2020 Annual Conference. You may have also read about his life and the start of his career in this article published on our blog a year ago.
If COVID has taught us anything is that a lot can change in a year, and as Eliazar says, “change is not a bad thing; adaptation is a necessary thing.” He has plans for his tenure as Acting President and Executive Director of El Centro Hispano, and he is ready to help the organization keep improving the work they do every day: “I’m getting the chance to do what I wanted to do from day one, which is just improve this whole thing.”
THOUGHT OUT LEADERSHIP
Talking to Eliazar makes one thing clear: he is a Leader. He has thoroughly thought about his roles and about how to be a better leader. He has analyzed what works and what doesn’t, and he doesn’t shy away from adapting when needed.
When he became the Director of the Department of Community Engagement and Advocacy at El Centro Hispano in July of 2019, he completely re-envisioned it, because he wanted to ensure that nothing would change in the performance of his department if he were to leave his position: “That’s what I see as a sign of a true leader: when you can leave and nothing changes, because you’ve built either a structure or an organization or a staff who can take that on.”
His plan now is to take that same experience and apply it to El Centro Hispano at large, have a deep dive at what is working, what is not, and if it’s not working, stop doing it. Eliazar is determined to create a more efficient organization, with more results, and with staff being more independent. “How I see my role throughout this time is finding those things that could be better and start implementing changes within the organization so that we are not super reliant on Pilar’s opinion.”
What Eliazar describes is empowering El Centro’s staff, go through the chain of command to fix any issues that come up, and only reach the Executive Director’s desk when the solution cannot be found or when it affects the organization at large. In that way, El Centro Hispano will be able to accomplish more, and ensure its perpetuity.
“SOBRE AVISO NO HAY ENGAÑO”
In his bag, Eliazar carries the “Continuity of Operations Plan” binder that the organization has worked on for months. The plan specifies everyone’s job description and responsibilities, with which “I can keep accountability for folks,” Eliazar explains.
His leadership style differs from Pilar’s, and his team is both hesitant and excited about the change. The previous guided ways of working is now going to turn into a more initiative-driven approach: “My leadership style is 80% initiative, 20% guidance,” Eliazar explains, “unless you show me that it needs to be different and then I’ll be 90% guidance, and 10% initiative.”
After 11 years under Pilar Rocha’s leadership, Eliazar expresses how this sabbatical will not only be good for Pilar, but also for El Centro Hispano: “It’s good for the organization to get a breather and get a different form of leadership, and understand a little bit more of independence.” During this time as Acting Executive Director, Eliazar wants to show that he doesn’t need to know everything that is going on for the organization to run: he’s trusting his team to perform on their jobs. “I need to know everything that is going on that is affecting my job or is affecting the organization. If it’s not, if you want to tell me, cool; if not, just run with it,” that’s how he has expressed it to the staff.
He has been completely honest with his team about his leadership style, so there are no surprises in the coming months: “Sobre aviso no hay engaño,” he says chuckling; forewarned is forearmed.
STRICT, BUT CONNECTED
Eliazar Posada’s colleagues at the Department of Community Engagement and Advocacy told him he’s a lot stricter than Pilar Rocha: “I sometimes get into this ‘no nonsense mode,’” he tells, meaning that he won’t accept excuses for things that went wrong when you’ve had the chance to ask for help. This is where he wants to ensure his team has the 80-20 and 90-10 present in their work.
However, Eliazar’s strict style is combined with a humanity every leader needs. Eliazar cares deeply about the Latino community and its success, and his hardheartedness has the ultimate goal of fulfilling El Centro’s mission and vision: strengthen the community, build bridges and advocate for equity and inclusion for Latinos in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.
“For the longest time, I have put so much work into this organization and to my community, and while I feel I’ve grown in the organization, and my position has been getting higher, this is definitely one of those moments when I realize it all has been working,” Eliazar reflects. “I am actually doing the work I set up to do, and I think I am doing a good job—if not I wouldn’t have been asked to be the Acting Executive Director.” But what triggers him the most is knowing that there’s people looking up to him, that he is a role model for many, and that he will be seen, and his steps will be followed.
THE MAKING OF ELIAZAR
Eliazar Posada has been at El Centro Hispano since December 2015, fulfilling the roles of Coordinator of a support group for gay and bisexual men (2015), Youth Coordinator in 2016, Community Engagement and Advocacy Program Manager (2017), then becoming the Director of that department in 2019, to today stepping up as the acting President and Executive Director of El Centro Hispano.
How did the Eliazar of 2015 become the Eliazar of 2021? “I have four people I consistently go to on a regular basis,” he shares. Pilar Rocha is one of them: he turns to her on professional matters, but not strictly tied to El Centro. Hector Salgado, who was the Executive Director of Alliance of Aids Services when they met—he has now moved on to be the Community Impact Director of the American Heart Association of the North Carolina Area—is another of Eliazar’s go-to’s. He helped him polish some of the rough edges he needed to develop to become a more effective leader.
Dr. Mero, his college professor that he met at orientation and who he has since then befriended, calls him up from time to time to talk about public perception, his specialty: “He gives me guidance regarding image perspective and how to iron out specific areas I might not be thinking about.”
The fourth person he also turns to, “which is surprising, but not surprising,” as he says given the difficult relationship they had at one point, is his older brother: “I go to him when I need to be grounded a little bit, because every now and then I get ahead of myself.” His brother is the one telling him: “Cálmate, think it through,” and helps Eliazar walk through it.
“We’ve had our issues for sure,” Eliazar shares laughing, “but I can always count on him when I need to have that kind of grounding moment,” he says right after, changing his tone to a proud, reflective one.
He recognizes that it took him a while to practice what he preaches, to ask for help and guidance when he needs it, but he has reached that point now: “Before I used to think: ‘I can do it, I don’t need any help,’” and he did it, and achieved goals, but, as he sees it now, he could’ve been more successful in his efforts if he had reached out to people with knowledge on those areas: “Now I know to ask for help to people with experience.”
Eliazar Posada is one of these incredibly rising stars at the UnidosUS Affiliate Network, a voice of our community, and a leader at heart. Follow him as he steps into this new position on Twitter at @EliazarPosada, and learn more about El Centro Hispano on their website.