3 Leadership Lessons from an Unlikely Latin American Superhero

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Last month, while attending the first leadership summit for EO’s Latin American and Caribbean region (LAC) in Medellín, Colombia, our Regional Chair Severo Pérez Maldonado (EO Guadalajara) playfully introduced me to a popular fictional superhero from a 1970s Mexican television series whose persona, he said, was fit for our purpose of cultivating a network of determined and courageous yet humble servant leaders who draw strength from teamwork and boundless determination. Severo even turned up wearing a t-shirt with the hero’s famous initials, ‘CH’, and gave me one for some mock sparring. It was a memorable way to start a meeting!

The hero he was play-acting is El Chapulín Colorado, the “Red Grasshopper” or the “Cherry Cricket,” whose TV show is still popular across Latin America decades after the show ended production in 1981. In pop culture, ‘CH’ described as “more agile than a turtle, stronger than a mouse, nobler than lettuce, and his shield is a heart.” The more I learned about him, the more it struck me how he can offer all of us, as business owners, some inspiration.

Together, we face obstacles with determination

Unlike the Marvel superheroes, Chapulín doesn’t have incredible physical strength or supernatural powers, nor can he turn to magical gadgets that boost his abilities. In fact, he’s quite clumsy and fearful. What Chapulín does have—and what we share with him—is a determination and willingness to solve problems in spite of our limitations, then recruit others to a vision or cause. His famous phrase: “Síganme los buenos,” or “Good people, follow my lead”, is part of his enduring appeal to generations across Latin America. And though we may not be outfoxing wolves, Martians or the Abominable Snowman like this unlikely hero has in the old series, now on YouTube, as business owners, we have all faced our share of obstacles.

In a way, we’re all Chapulíns. Our resources are the relationships we’ve built with trust and respect for each other; our strong network of peers, from Cincinnati to Medellín to Cape Town. We learn, grow, and lead together and because of that, ‘we’ become our superpower.

Humility is our strength

Many episodes started with Chapulín boasting and exaggerating his strengths, resulting in misadventures and accidents that would only disappoint the people he was trying to help. His “Síganme los buenos,” would sometimes be followed by a comedy of errors when he would bump into a wall and knock over something. But those three words helped Chapulín stay on task and pull through, when he faced what were seemingly impossible situations. He was humble and learned from his mistakes and in doing so, he embraced his weaknesses and transformed them into strengths.

We can do the same. Many of our accomplishments result from leading with our strengths but acknowledging our missteps and vulnerabilities. We too can reach out for advice and support when we stumble and need an assist getting back on track.

A leader (or superhero) doesn’t need to know everything

Chapulín may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. He probably wouldn’t fit in with EO’s Executive Education Programmes or structured Path of Leadership. But among his superpowers is his self-awareness. He knows he’s weak, clumsy, and not always the smartest person in the room. He is often overcome with fear, which doesn’t bode well when he’s confronting monsters or pirates. But despite the misadventures, Chapulín faces his fears and charges ahead anyway.

As entrepreneurs, we learn this skill too. I have faced my fair share of fears over the years as I built my business as a lone woman in a male-dominated industry—a logistics company specializing in bulk transport of chemicals. But like Chapulín, I banked on my hopes and not my fears. I learned to think outside the box when faced with challenges. And as I grew, I didn’t always take the straightforward path. I did get comfortable acknowledging what I did not know, then seeking out wisdom from people who know better.

I never expected to draw inspiration from a fearful, fictional, comedy character, but when we’re open to learning, opportunities are everywhere. So, thanks for the inspiration and leadership, Chapulín, Severo and EO Latin America. This dose of smart humor during your regional Leadership Summit was one I’ll long remember.

Síganme, los buenos. Let’s learn, grow, and lead together.

Contributed to EO by Lynn Anstett, an EO Cincinnati member serving as Chair of the EO Board of Directors, FY23-24. Lynn credits and thanks Severo Pérez Maldonado (EO Guadalajara), the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Regional Chair, for introducing her to Chapulín during LAC’s first Leadership Summit in September 2023. The Summit, driven by LAC Regional Council members and their functional Experts, was built around a theme of “Connection and Transformation.” It gathered 125 EO member leaders from all 22 Leadership Boards in the region to share challenges, exchange best practices, and align goals for their respective chapters to better serve EO members.

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