Words matter for Jarret Barrios. So do languages.
On a recent morning, his scheduled interview starts with a "Buenos dias" from a reporter; the American Red Cross official jovially responds in an impeccable Spanish. After pleasantries and introductions and for practical purposes, the two men agree to continue in English.
Barrios, 47, is the chief executive officer of the ARC Los Angeles Region that serves 10 million people in 100 cities in Southern California. When asked about the biggest challenges of running the Red Cross' second largest region in U.S., he politely states with a hint of enthusiasm, "I prefer to see opportunities."
That optimism, coupled with his bilingual skills serve Barrios well leading a vast region that he describes as the nation's most prone to disasters-think earthquakes, drought, fires, and floods--all smack in the middle of where Latinos make up nearly half of population.
"The LA Region is the third or fourth in loss of lives and property," he says in a more subdued tone.
A recent analysis by the multinational reinsurance company Swiss Re places Greater Los Angeles on ninth place among the top -10 cities in the globe for the number of people potentially affected by a natural disaster- the only American metropolis on the list.
So far, with a year and a half on his Southern California job, Barrios has not faced any large-scale catastrophe or earthquake-except for the fictional "Big One" that hit the region in the greatly exaggerated and factually inaccurate blockbuster film "San Andreas" this summer.
Barrios previous job with the ARC in Massachusetts was a different story.
Two year after becoming the CEO of the Bay State's American Red Cross in 2011, Barrios faced a pair of major disasters only two months apart; a tragic February blizzard and the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings.
"Those events were critical for my profession and an opportunity to recommit to the humanitarian mission of the Red Cross," Barrios says. "In Boston, there was an opportunity to lead many people who were really hurt through a very difficult time." A year after the disasters, he received the 2014 American Red Cross Presidential Award for Excellence.
Barrios does not consider himself a traditional leader, which he describes as one "often seen as sitting in a corner or managing lots of people or big budgets." He rather states that "A leader is someone who can distill the values of a people or a group and bring...