Editor’s Note: Leadership can mean different things to different people. The Valley Business Report turned to experienced business leaders in the Rio Grande Valley to learn more about their views on leadership in their own words. Through a question-and-answer format, Leadership Matters presents comments on leadership from Valley CEOs and other business leaders.
Sergio Contreras is president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. The RGVP is the primary voice of the business community, advocating for economic prosperity and supporting business-friendly policies for the four-county region.
Contreras is the former executive director of the Pharr Economic Development Corporation and worked for almost 20 years at AT&T as regional manager of external affairs.
He is extensively involved with several key organizations, currently serving as chair-elect of the Border Trade Alliance, vice-chair of the Texas Border Coalition and board member of the Alliance for I-69 Texas.
VBR: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Contreras: The most important decisions made on behalf of the organization are to engage our board of directors on priorities and initiatives that are aligned with our mission. The rapid growth of our region brings many economic opportunities, while at the same time increasing the need for transportation and ports of entry infrastructure, access to quality health care and an educated workforce. It is critical to engage the leaders of our organization as we focus to improve the quality of life across the Rio Grande Valley.
VBR: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? Why?
Contreras: Awareness. It is important for leaders to be cognizant of their respective role in the organization, being laser focused to exceed expectations and to promote success through teamwork. A critical characteristic of awareness is the ability to recognize when one needs to learn new material or seek help from others to be able to move forward.
VBR: What is your greatest frustration as a business leader?
Contreras: I don’t characterize it as a frustration, but rather a good challenge – and that is to prioritize initiatives to maximize time and resources. We are a growing organization with a lot of moving parts. It is important that we as staff manage our time accordingly to inform our board of directors on the current state of our finances, upcoming events and any anticipated issues. It is important to embrace frustrations, issues and challenges. It is not always easy, however, breaking them down step-by-step will help overcome the challenges.
VBR: Can you explain the impact that social media/networking has made on your organization?
Contreras: Both social media and networking continue to provide a positive impact to our organization. Networking allows us the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with our members and community stakeholders, while social media helps us disseminate relevant information of our organization and engage with our partners. Social media and networking have many platforms, which if used properly and strategically, organizations will find them very valuable.
VBR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing business leaders today?
Contreras: The biggest challenges facing business leaders today are the hardship to maintain a well-rounded educated workforce, ensuring that they use the appropriate technological tools that will advance their respective organization and the many changes that are hitting us from every direction. Organizations may overcome these challenges by creating a workplace that embraces employee engagement, invests in their employees’ leadership skills and maintains focus on the critical steps that will make the organization succeed in their respective fields.
VBR: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Contreras: My advice is to embrace challenges (welcome them), be a friendly person and lead by example. And make sure to enjoy life!
If you know of a Valley business leader you would like to see featured in Leadership Matters, please email the information to Managing Editor George Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.