Champion boxer now champions the needs of others
Someone once said, if you are given the opportunity, be the change you wish to see in the world.
That could describe the extraordinary journey of Colón from being bullied as a child, to becoming a national boxing sensation to becoming the President CEO of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, one of the largest nonprofits in the Midwest.
He grew up in poverty on Milwaukee’s south side. He lost two close friends to drug addiction, and as a young Latino, he experienced the ever-present challenges of bullying and prejudice
At the same time his mother was working three jobs, his father left home when was Héctor was twelve, and his sister suffered from drug addiction and co-occurring mental illness.
As a result of the challenges surrounding him Colón says his Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score was six. “According to research, this would indicate that I had a 1200% likelihood of having depression and a 200% likelihood of committing suicide, but fortunately I was able to overcome these disadvantages.”
The Hector Colón story is detailed in the author’s memoir, From Boxing Ring to Boardroom-5 Essential Virtues for Life & Leadership (August, 2020). (hectorcolonmke.com)
“If you want inspiration then you owe it to yourself to read Héctor Colón’s life story. From humble beginnings to a champion boxer to the boardroom. Héctor weaves a wonderful story about life’s challenges and rewards,” Howard Behar, Retired President of the Starbucks Coffee Company
Profound Personal & Professional Journey
Living in a poor neighborhood, and seeing up close the needs of his family, these experiences propelled Colón to make a difference with his life. These experiences not only helped shape his strong work ethic, later on it led to his relentless efforts in helping others through strong leadership.
Earlier this year Colón’s leadership was recognized when Gov. Tony Evers appointed him to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
He also served as the boxing and mixed martial arts commissioner for the state of Wisconsin from 2009 to 2011. Colón holds both a B.S. and M.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Today, he is known as a bold visionary as leader of Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Milwaukee and Upper Michigan. The organization provides aid to about 40,000 individuals through dozens of programs including mental health, addiction, foster care, disabilities, and family services for youth to seniors.
Boxing Makes a Difference
Sometimes, looking back, there’s a definitive moment in time that leads you in the direction to where you are today.
In his memoir Colón clearly describes that moment. “On a summer day when I was nine, Adam sent me home crying and bleeding from being bullied. That same day my father marched me into the boxing gym.”
He says the person he is today was shaped by tough trials growing up as well as those first tentative steps he took into the boxing ring and the decade of hard work that followed.
“I recall being pushed in front of a mirror and shown some basic boxing combinations by my coach, Shorty, his first and only boxing coach. “After I started boxing, he turned to my father and said, “Héctor is a natural. He will become a champion.”
“I have known Héctor since he was nine years old and have witnessed him grow and develop into a man who lives every day with the virtues of magnanimity, humility, courage, perseverance and temperance. Héctor is a champion in and out of the ring. This memoir is charming yet inspiring; find out what it takes to be a champion in life,” Ricardo Diaz, Executive Director, United Community Center
Colón’s childhood trials led to the United Community Center boxing program and seven subsequent USA National boxing titles. This same fierce determination to succeed nurtured the virtues of magnanimity, humility, courage, fortitude and temperance – deep-rooted virtues that he continues to embrace as CEO and president of LSS.
“The transition from boxing ring to the boardroom is not a common path,” Colón says “All odds were against me. Research would indicate that someone with my background would have a difficult time succeeding,” he says.
Today, he is an independent director on the board of USA Boxing with a focus on inspiring athletes to discover their own path towards personal and professional greatness.
In his memoir Colón describes and emphasizes five essential virtues for life and leadership.
Magnanimity — Strive for greatness.
Humility — “I learned what it meant to be served by my coach, through boxing,” Colón says.
“He sacrificed long hours in the gym with me. He delayed or cancelled vacations to attend my boxing matches. And he accepted me into his house where he fed, loved and cared for me when I was 16. Through him, I learned what it meant to be a servant leader and I try to live out this approach in my personal and professional life — serving and putting others first.”
Courage — Fight to do the right thing in the midst of significant challenge, odds and opposition. “Be not afraid
Perseverance — It’s okay to fail –it will make you stronger. If you fail that means you are stretching yourself to do challenging things.
Temperance — We need to exhibit measured responses to difficult, challenging and trying circumstances to yield good outcomes for yourself and others.
He credits the moral teachings of his father, the humility and love from his mother and the pride of his culture as contributing to the person he is today.
This is what he tells those who have trouble visualizing a better future for themselves.
“My journey continued with challenges, low expectations by others, set-backs, opportunities, and successes. Undeterred, I applied the same dedication, determination and discipline that it took to become a champion boxer to my new life striving for excellence in everything I do, whether it be as a husband, father, or CEO.”
Servant Leadership Informs Inclusion
Racial injustices, such as the murder of George Floyd, often lead to discussions about equity, diversity and inclusion.
How Servant-Leadership Informs Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
by Héctor Colón
June 19, 2020
How Servant-Leadership Informs Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Racial injustices, such as the murder of George Floyd, often lead to discussions about equity, diversity and inclusion. Well-intended business leaders change policies, develop affinity groups, and require training. Research literature demonstrates that these traditional workplace programs do not significantly achieve intended goals.
At Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS), we look to Servant-Leadership and Larry Spears’ ”Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders” for inspiration. This article offers ideas on how to enhance your program with five of these characteristics: Awareness, Listening, Healing, Empathy and Commitment to the Growth of people.
Awareness involves understanding individual strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and biases. The better you know yourself, the better you can foster meaningful connections with others. Self-awareness is foundational to authentic relationships requiring meaningful dialogue and a willingness to grow and change.
To create an environment that encourages awareness for others, self-reflect on your own personal behaviors and biases and make a commitment to learn about how to change them for the better.
Listening includes actively receiving someone’s words, feelings and body language. In order to discover and meet the needs of others, we need to listen rather than mandate a top-down approach to solutions for all.
Co-create a diverse and inclusion
ve environment with your employees through active listening and asking questions. Reach outside of your organization for help with facilitating these meaningful conversations
Through open dialogue, listening and awareness, you can hear when a person needs to heal from past hurts. Without healing, wounds and scars might resurface unless addressed.
Find your safe places and people with whom you can share your wounds and scars. Then work to create a trustworthy environment for employees that offers healing and opportunities to become their best selves.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another without judgment. It expresses awareness of what it’s like to live in the shoes of others and offer support to aid in their healing.
Find ways to connect with others that have faced experiences different from your own. You can show empathy by expressing a desire to know someone more deeply so you can better understand their challenges and pain.
When addressing a commitment to the growth of people, Servant-Leader Founder Robert Greenleaf shares the following: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And what is the effect on the least privileged in society…?”
Employees will know of your commitment to their growth when you choose to self-reflect, actively listen, make space for healing and show empathy. Putting others’ interests before your own will help unleash the greatness of individuals, your organization and the community at large.
A Servant-Leadership approach develops a culture over compliance, awareness over assumptions, and leadership over legislation. Join me in this movement to respond to the racial and ethnic disparities that exist in our society today.
About the Author and LSS:
Servant-Leader, Héctor Colón, is the current President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS). Within his first two years at LSS, Mr. Colón co-created with his leadership team and boards of directors to realize a significant $4 million financial turnaround for the social services organization. Colón was named 2019 Nonprofit Executive of the Year by BizTimes Media in Milwaukee. He currently serves on the University Of Wisconsin Board Of Regents and is an independent director on the board of USA Boxing. Mr. Colon is set to release his first book, “From Boxing Ring to Board Room” later this summer.
LSS empowers people to live their best lives by offering a path to recovery from addiction or mental illness, a home that’s safe and affordable, a family to thrive in, independence and a life that is truly their own. Every year, nearly thirty thousand people in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan come to LSS with incredible odds stacked against them. LSS innovates services and compassionately delivers them with…
- Experience: LSS has 138 years of proven results as a social service provider.
- Effectiveness: Over 90% of the people served say that LSS improved the quality of their lives.
- Efficiency: LSS beats the industry average on the percentage of dollars raised that are applied to client care.
To support LSS and their work with clients especially impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, please visit www.lsswis.org/responsefund or Text LSSGIVE to 41444. For questions, please contact Jackie Harcourt at email@example.com or 414-246-2701.
Gold Medal Lofts Grand Opening
Milwaukee-based J. Jeffers & Co. developed the project in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. The 77 apartments include market-rate units, and those reserved for people making less than 60%, 50% or 30% of the area’s median income levels. Read more
Héctor Colón LSS Statement Regarding George Floyd
“Please…..I can’t breathe….Mama……my stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts,……Please…….Don’t kill me!” Like so many, I can’t get these words out of my mind. More than seven minutes passed as Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck. George moaned and groaned while three other police officers stood there doing nothing as George took his last
breath on May 25, 2020. Today his family stands without a son and brother, his kids without a father and the community without a person that displayed a commitment to make lives better.
Why did this happen? My heart pains to see the videos or read the news relating to this injustice. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities continue to exist in our society. The research literature well documents that people of color and specifically African Americans are treated differently in the criminal justice system. Who would have thought that the alleged use of a counterfeit $20 dollar bill could result in a senseless homicide? When I looked into the eyes of Derick when watching the video, I personally felt the cold and reckless act that slowly and painfully took George’s precious life.
As a person of color, I can identify with the racial and ethnic injustices I have faced in my life. By no means would I compare my situation to the injustice of George, nor am I comparing my situation to the experiences of African Americans in this country. However, I will share a few points to demonstrate how I can relate. These moments never leave your memory. One time on a nice summer day I went to pick up my girlfriend, who is now my wife. Within blocks of her home we were stopped by four police officers in two cars. The officers shouted, “Get out of the car.” I said, “Why?” They repeated, “Get out now!” They roughly ransacked my car, going through my glove compartment and trunk, leaving a mess as they calmly walked back into their vehicles with no explanation of why they did this.
Another time I was working for a mail carrier and was entering the back of a department store in Racine to pick up their mail. An individual next to me shouted, “Get away from my car you Mexican N….” I went on to tell him why I was there but he kept on shouting at me angrily. After being taunted several times, I picked up my mail and left.
Yet another time, I went out with some friends to go dancing, something I rarely did in college because I was focused on getting my degree to pursue a career. Two friends and I were prohibited from entering the establishment. I asked, “Why are you not letting us in?” White patrons were walking right in so it was not because of crowd control. I asked three times and then they said very aggressively, “You better leave or else we are calling the cops.” Since I knew this conversation was going nowhere, I left.
The way I reacted in these situations, walking away, may have saved my life. Had I reacted differently, maybe I would have gone to jail, obtained a fine, lost my job and even died the way George did. The unfortunate thing here is that George did react the way I did. He was polite and did not resist arrest and yet he is gone.
Justice needs to be brought to Derek Chauvin, but he is not the only one responsible. The other police officers who were on the scene are also responsible. Why didn’t they do anything? Did they agree with what they saw? On the other hand, maybe they were fearful. I say they were cowards. They chose not to use good judgment and common sense or to enact the aim and purpose of their police profession which is to protect and serve. Courage is acting even when you are afraid. Courageous people will do the right thing even when it is difficult. These police standing by were the only ones that could have saved George’s life and they should have consequences measurable to their silence and inaction that led to this tragic situation. Despite my personal experiences, I believe the overwhelming majority of law enforcement act with integrity in fulfilling their duties to protect and serve. The actions of the police officers in the George Floyd tragedy did a grave disservice to all the men and women who put their lives on the line and whose countless daily positive actions go unreported. It is my hope that as a society we do not get clouded and turn against the individuals who choose to protect and serve. If we are to get to the root cause, we must look to the systems and policies that foster conditions where the actions of these officers can occur.
While George is gone his story lives. The pain and discomfort many feel is real and it will last a long time. Nevertheless, how can we use this unfortunate tragedy to move us closer together versus further apart. We need to peacefully end the racial and ethnic disparities that continue to exist in our criminal justice system, in our healthcare system, and in other systems and institutions in our society.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that; hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” And the Floyd family agrees. Terrance Floyd said recently, “We’ve been down this road already. He [George Floyd] would want to seek justice the way we are, the way we’re trying to do. But channel it another way. The anger, damaging your hometown, it’s not the way he’d want.” Let us follow the advice of Martin Luther King and George’s brother in moving forward demanding change through peaceful efforts. There is no place for violence against police officers, protestors, businesses and communities. We must lead with peace.
Everyone is created equal and has a right to live in a healthy community filled with people using their God-given gifts to serve. At LSS, we are called every day to enact our mission to act compassionately, serve humbly and lead courageously in solidarity with all people from white to black to brown and in-between. And we will stand in support of the infinite worth of black lives.
LSS President & CEO named UMOS Hispanic Man of the Year
Héctor Colón, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan was named 2019 Hispanic Man of the Year by UMOS.
UMOS, a non-profit advocacy organization, provides programming and services which aim to improve the employment, educational, health and housing opportunities of under-served populations. Each year, the organization hosts a Hispanic Awards Banquet to honor individuals in Wisconsin who contribute to the Hispanic Community. Awards are given to a man, woman, youth, and family to recognize their contributions.
Héctor’s selection is a reflection of his dedication to making strides in the health and human services sector for the last two decades with a focus on Southeastern Wisconsin’s Hispanic community and diversity, in general. And at LSS, we see Héctor’s contributions to our community at large daily through his dedication to our organization.
Héctor is a servant-leader, someone who uses his leadership position less to his own advantage and more to advance a broader mission for those among us whose needs are greatest. As a servant leader, he embodies the LSS mission to act compassionately, serve humbly and lead courageously enabling our vision of healthy communities filled with individuals using their God-given gifts to serve to emerge in profound ways.
With two decades of leadership experience in social services and a commitment to the Greater Milwaukee community, Héctor offers and lives the unique perspective of an individual who has applied successful business strategies in the government, nonprofit and social services sectors.
Héctor is committed to working to better serve our community while transforming the way nonprofits operate, by making strategic decisions that ultimately lead to greater impact.
President and CEO Héctor Colón Named 2019 BizTimes Nonprofit Executive of the Year
Héctor Colón, President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS), was named Nonprofit Executive of the Year at BizTimes Media LLC’s 2019 Nonprofit Excellence Awards on Friday, Nov. 1.
The award is given to a nonprofit leader who demonstrates vision and innovation in advancing the mission of the nonprofit, extensive involvement in a nonprofit and/or creativity in bringing new resources and opportunities to the nonprofit.
Colón brought to LSS years of experience in combining smart business strategies with courageous compassion in order to make the greatest impact on the communities he served.
Leveraging this experience, he and his team addressed operational inefficiencies, making difficult decisions to step away from some programs that no longer served communities as they once had, and focusing efforts on the greatest needs of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. The result has been strategic growth and the ability to serve even more people, including more than 39,000 directly benefiting from LSS services last year.
For more than 135 years, LSS has been a well of resources to turn to for so many. Today the organization is better positioned than ever to achieve its vision of building healthy communities filled with people using their God-given gifts to serve.
Colón’s impact is far-reaching, but it is most directly felt within the walls of LSS, where 850 servant-leaders come together to truly live the mission – Act compassionately. Serve Humbly. Lead Courageously.
“I’m proud of the work my team has done to position LSS for ongoing success in finding solutions that will improve the health and well-being of the communities LSS serves,” Colón said. “I want to continue to find ways for our staff and partners to bring our mission to life: To act compassionately, serve humbly and lead courageously.”
LSS is one of the largest and most experienced health and human services organizations in the Midwest with a vision of healthy communities filled with people using their God-given gifts to serve. LSS is a tax-exempt charitable organization serving nearly 40,000 people annually, offering programs across Wisconsin and Upper Michigan ranging from foster care, counseling and behavioral health services to housing, comprehensive community services and refugee resettlement.
The BizTimes Nonprofit Excellence Awards are designed to shine a light on the community impact of southeastern Wisconsin nonprofits. The program also salutes the work of for-profit organizations, executives and professionals who donate their time, talent and resources to community causes.