Entrepreneurs & Business: Can They Survive Without a Smartphone?

Let’s say you’re a typical entrepreneur. And like 80% of entrepreneurs, you use your smartphone to run your business. Now let’s say, for a challenge, you lose your access to your favoured piece of technology. Would you still be able to do business like normal if you didn’t have it? Would you be able to survive without your smartphone?

According to PeoplePerHour, “over 80% of entrepreneurs use smartphones to run or manage their business.” Without their smartphones, how different would life be for entrepreneurs? In most cases, as you will see, it’s like a throwback in time.

In 2018, 51.9% of those aged 24 to 44 checked their phone every 30 minutes. – Statistics Canada

Connections, Meetings and Calls on the Go

Entrepreneurs run their business using calendar apps and messaging services to keep track of their schedules, take and receive calls, and schedule and attend meetings. When it’s almost time for a meeting, an alarm on their phone will go off as a reminder.

Getting ready for business trips are a no-sweat, easy activity with apps to remind you where you’re supposed to be and when. You can book a hotel, a car rental, and a plane ticket from the comfort of your phone, no matter where you are. Even if you’re in the bathroom.

Virtual meetings already structure a part of your day, but they don’t limit where you have to be. There’s no need to rush to the office to attend a meeting. You can turn on your smartphone camera and attend from the inside of your car in between running errands.

If you want to send a message without making a phone call, you can type a quick text. If you’re in a rush, and you want to send a long (ish) message, you can send one by voice. All these tasks are convenient and quick to do.

But an entrepreneur without a smartphone would be working quite differently. 

Without their calendar apps, entrepreneurs would be keeping track of all the events in their day with a day planner or a wall calendar. They would need a pen to jot down all their notes in their day planner, and have a purse or a small bag to keep the planner with them when they leave their desk. Planning one’s day already requires a lot more stuff.

A wall calendar is also handy for keeping your month organized, but unless you take your calendar with you, you may need to memorize when you have some of your appointments and project deadlines. And for all those random thoughts, ideas, and memos you may have, you’ll need a little pad of sticky post-it notes. Your wall or desk will become quite colourful.

Video conferencing will have limitations if you don’t have a smartphone. When you’re at the office, you’ll need to go to the meeting room, where the screen, telephone, and speakers are already set up for your call. You probably had to book the room in advance as well.

If you have a call at your home office, then you need to be back at your desk, where your camera and speakers are set up for an optimal meeting experience. You might have a virtual background set up. Everything that is in view of your camera in your room is quite presentable.

You may have had to kick out your cat or put your pet in the next room. Same with the kids, although it will be harder to kick them out of the room. At least with a smartphone, you can easily move yourself to a new location wherever there is WiFi or data. You can even hide in a brightly lit closet.

No matter which option the entrepreneur chooses for doing business meetings without a phone, they are limited by the location of their laptop or tablet, and WiFi connection.

Organizing yourself, messaging others, and attending meetings is still survivable without a smartphone. You just need to rely more on other types of technology, a big laptop, and good old paper documents like planners and post it notes.

When Entrepreneurs Need Their Documents

Security has improved to the point that we can share files in the cloud. We can access the same document from our smartphone, our tablet, or our laptop. Not only can we access from any device, but we can also access our files from anywhere.

Mobile payments have also become a cinch to do from mobile devices. You can make a payment or do your banking from your bed. Or make an online purchase while watching TV. You can be a lot more spontaneous than if you have just a laptop or tablet.

Got a few minutes to make a mobile payment? You’d have to take out that laptop, set it up, find a place to set it up, and so on. If you don’t have a laptop, you would need some time to walk over to the bank to make a payment.

It’s not so long ago when entrepreneurs would get creative with getting documents prepared. You could lug your heavy laptop with you to do a presentation at a meeting with a client at their office.

And before we had data plans, you could bring a backup of your files on your USB drive in case your WiFi connection failed. You also had the messy alternative of printing out a copy of your file to put in a file folder or portfolio for safe keeping. Not only does this option affect our tree population, but it just means doubling the amount of stuff you have to bring with you.

No matter what option you choose, USB or paper, not having your smartphone means requiring access to more devices and a lot less flexibility. Laptops require more space. Paper copies take longer to navigate because you can’t skip directly to a section you want unless you already know which page it’s on.

Most freelancers, business owners and entrepreneurs appreciate the fact that smartphones offer them the opportunity to quickly check their emails, upload new products to their websites and even interact with their customers, all on the go. And while this is great, it is the addiction and the urge to always check your smartphone every other second that is worrying. – PeoplePerHour

Keeping Up With News and Social Media

Keeping up with the trends is quicker and easier with a smartphone. You don’t need to stop for the morning paper when you’re on the way to work. You don’t need to surf the internet on your work computer for news headlines. One click on your smartphone news app and you can quickly scan all the biggest headlines, check out sports scores, and the latest numbers for the stock market and real estate market.

Who has the patience these days to scan a newspaper for headlines when you can Google search what you want? Why slowly read through everything on a page when you can move from one item to another in seconds with the flick of a finger?

In fact, the availability and abundance of information, has affected how much time we can spend on things. Our attention span has dropped by 4 seconds in just four years.

A 2016 Microsoft consumer study claimed the attention span for human beings had dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds (lower than the notoriously ill-focused goldfish) mainly because of the effects of the increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. – PeoplePerHour

Solopreneurs who work on their own social media marketing can check the status of social media posts, look for leads and potential clients on Facebook, and see what their friends are up to on Facebook and Instagram.

When it comes to personal social media use, men and women are looking for different things. Men are more likely to use social media for news and see who they can meet on dating apps. Women are more likely to use social media to see what their friends and family are doing.

Without a smartphone, entrepreneurs would have to wait until they are at their workstation to check for social media and news updates on their laptops or tablets. It’s not as convenient as checking while on a bus ride, during a commercial for a TV show, or when sitting around having a tea or coffee.


Entrepreneurs can continue to do business without their smartphones. They can survive without the convenience of this technology. But they will also lose many of the conveniences they are used to, making it more difficult to run a business from anywhere at almost any time.

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6 Movies That Teach First-Rate Entrepreneurship Skills – Featuring People of Colour

Have you ever tried learning entrepreneurship skills by watching a movie? The other day I watched a show about a character who was trying to make money without finding a job. So I thought, how cool would it be to learn entrepreneurship by watching a bunch of movies! But… the movies that leapt to mind the quickest were all about Caucasian entrepreneur-minded people. After much digging, I found some movies about people of colour (POC) that teach top-notch entrepreneurship skills.

To compile my list, I did a search for movies about entrepreneurs. To my disappointment, these were lists of male entrepreneurs. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, I tend to focus on female entrepreneurs. I decided to refine my search further, and I had no difficulty finding lists of movies about female business minded people. For example:

  • Molly’s Game: Based on the true story of Molly Bloom, this movie is about how Molly makes a fortune running an underground poker empire for celebrities, athletes, and business tycoons.
  • Working Girl: Tess is a secretary who gets a big career break when her idea for a merger lands her a job as a junior executive.
  • Erin Brockovich: Based on the true story of Erin Brockovich who proves that she has the natural skills and talent to earn her a highly paid position at a law firm.

Encouraged by my findings on female entrepreneur-minded people, I wanted to go a step further and find female entrepreneurs of colour. This next search yielded fewer results, so I decided to look for any entrepreneurial movies about people of colour (male or female) and I came up with six titles.

These titles were selected solely on what the movie could teach us about entrepreneurship. Their historical accuracy and quality as a movie (plot and character) were a less of a consideration. I also kept the selection to movies, and not documentaries, to keep the playing field even. Time to bring out the popcorn and grab a good seat!

Related read: Leadership and Race: Are Leadership Skills Affected By Our Identity?

Entrepreneurial Women of Colour

First, let’s begin with my favourite topic, women who are amazing for their business talents and skills. These women show how their first-rate entrepreneurial skills help them to achieve their goals and become successful.

Lionheart (2018)

In Lionheart, Adaeze Obiagu wants the opportunity to run a transportation company when her father, Chief Ernest Obiagu, has health issues. She and her father’s brother work together to save the bus company from debt and possible takeover.

Lessons to Learn

  • Persistence and a strong mindset. Adaeze faces the difficult challenges of trying to get money to keep a company going. She and her uncle go from bank to bank and to possible partners to apply for a loan.
  • Persistence despite conflict. Adaeze faces unwanted sexual advances from men who don’t take her seriously as a business owner asking for a loan.
  • Market research. Curious about the success of the competition, Adaeze listens to what bus customers want, then has a meeting with her drivers to get their point of view. Her research gains her a better understanding of marketplace needs.
  • The secret to a perfect business pitch. Adaeze’s first business pitch is shot down when her potential merger partner says it sounds too rehearsed. Her second attempt is more genuine, when she shows the deep research she has done to understand the core values of the competition and how the merger will benefit both companies.

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker (2020)

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a movie – it’s a Netflix mini-series. But the story about how a woman becomes tired of her job, finds a product to sell, and builds her own empire from cosmetic and hair products is worth watching from a business standpoint. Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Lessons to Learn

  • Finding opportunities to start a business. Sarah hates her job as a washerwoman. One day, she finds an opportunity to sell another woman’s haircare products.
  • Creating own products and own business. Sarah begins to create her own haircare products and builds her own team of female sales associates and group of loyal clients.
  • National promotion and company expansion. Over time, she creates her own national empire, with conventions that local sales associates can attend.
  • Creating a brand. She decides her husband’s name is much catchier than her own and creates a brand for her business.
  • Tenacity and determination. Despite hardships such as threats from her main competitor, and a fire that destroys her home and products, her belief in her dream keeps her going.
  • Delegation. One of the biggest challenges for an entrepreneur is letting go of responsibilities and delegating these tasks to others. Over time, Sarah learns to delegate tasks to family and friends.

The Associate (1996)

Laurel Ayres is a talented and smart African American woman trying to climb the Wall Street corporate ladder. When she is passed over for a promotion, it is because she is a woman. Determined to be taken more seriously in the male-dominated Wall Street world, she pretends to be Robert S. Cutty, a white man.

Lessons to Learn

  • Strong mindset to overcome discrimination. Laureldeals with racial and sexual discrimination in her line of work but it makes her twice as determined to succeed.
  • Talent and ingenuity will open new doors. Laurel decides that being an employee is not for her if she will not be recognized for her talents. Instead, she uses her innovation and skills to start her own company.
  • Find a partner who believes in you. Laurel partners up with a secretary who is just as talented so they can achieve a common goal together.
  • Belief in your goal and yourself. Laurel takes baby steps by leaving her job, then starting her own company so that one day she can build her own empire.

Entrepreneurial Boys/ Men of Colour

These next three movies teach excellent lessons about the business of entrepreneurship and the mental toughness it takes to become an entrepreneur. Again, these people demonstrate first-rate entrepreneurial skills.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)

This movie is based on the real-life story of William Kamkwamba, a 13-year-old boy who cannot attend school when his family cannot afford the fees. The village is suffering from extreme poverty from famine and drought. To save his family, William sneaks into the school library and learns how to build a windmill to end the drought.

Lessons to Learn

  • Self taught, continuous learning. Entrepreneurs are always learning because they know they don’t know everything. When William can’t get answers from his teacher, he borrows books to teach himself about windmills.
  • Selling your idea and getting buy in. William constructs a small, working windmill prototype to convince his friends and father that his idea works. Eventually, he convinces the village that a windmill can use wind to bring water.
  • Identify the problem and find the solution. William is always looking for ways to solve his problems. When he cannot see at night to study, he looks for alternative sources of power and lighting.  
  • Strong drive. Even after being thrown out of school, William was determined to keep learning. When his friends didn’t believe in his windmill idea, he persisted, and when his father argued with him, he did not give up.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This movie is based on the story of Chris Gardner, a failing bone density scanner salesman. His wife works double shifts to support both them and their son. Eventually she leaves them, and he and his son become homeless. To change his life, Chris works as an unpaid intern for six months until he is chosen for the one full-time paid position. Eventually, he forms his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm.

Lessons to Learn

  • Lots of no’s before yeses. You can really feel the main character’s pain as one prospect after another turns down buying a scanner. You can also feel his pain when he is homeless and struggling for food and shelter. Many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs can identify with these struggles at the start of a business.
  • Fake it until you make it. Chris dresses in a suit during his internship. The entire time, no one guessed someone working at a corporate office could be homeless. Even when he was asked to lend a $5 bill he couldn’t afford to spend, he pretended he didn’t need the money.
  • Short term loss for long term gain. Chris and his family made a lot of sacrifices before he finally had a job with a steady income.
  • Mental toughness. Having a support network helps entrepreneurs get through difficult times. In this case, Chris’s network (his wife) left him so he had to stay strong for his son’s sake.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Yes, this movie is a bit different than the others. It’s a cartoon, but I was determined to find a movie about Asians and entrepreneurship. This story has many inventors. Hiro is a robot specialist who invents tiny robots that link to create things. His brother Tadashi invented a medical robot called Baymax who helps treat medical problems. Hiro partners up with Tadashi’s friends after his brother’s death so they can find his killer. One of these friends is inventor Go Go, an electromagnetics expert.

Lessons to Learn

  • Entrepreneurs are inventors. Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go all use their talents to invent creations that the market has never seen before. Hiro’s robots can change how buildings are constructed. Tadashi’s robot will revolutionize personalized healthcare. With the right investors, an entrepreneur can make a lot of money on their invention.
  • Determination and perfectionism. Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go are all inventors, but they didn’t achieve their results on the first try. It took a lot of brainstorming, trial and error, and several attempts to achieve the desired result.    
  • Motivation. Entrepreneurs need to be driven by a powerful “Why.” That reason is what will keep them motivated even when times are tough, or when faced with many losses, to keep them going until they get to their goal. Hiro’s “why” is his brother and keeps him motivated through hardships until he achieves his goal.


Movies can be a great source of entertainment, but they can also teach you tips and lessons about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. These six movies share first-rate entrepreneurial skills, from mental attitude, to how to start a business. The next time you’re looking for a movie to watch, consider selecting one of these titles about successful people of colour who have a winning entrepreneurial mindset.

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TikTok Health and Fitness Influencers that are Perfect for Entrepreneurs

Are you more fit or less fit than before the COVID-19 pandemic? Your fitness routine may have changed this year because gyms have closed and you are no longer walking to catch the bus to work. If there were a year to gain weight before overeating at Christmas, 2020 would be it. My sedentary job and reduced social life are two of the reasons I became fascinated by health and fitness influencers on TikTok. Now if you’re an entrepreneur like me, you’ll also be intrigued why the following influencers should be added to your social media must follow list.

Working from home comes with its own health and fitness challenges, especially with winter around the corner. Your community centre or gym may be closed. Your city may have restrictions on your social circle, so you may no longer have a running or walking buddy to keep you accountable. What can you do for your pandemic health and fitness routine?

Health and Fitness Influencers for the Remote Entrepreneur

A pandemic health and fitness routine should fit your lifestyle and be practical and doable. As an entrepreneur, you most likely work unusual hours… and (if you’re a solopreneur), you may be working long hours. It’s also possible that COVID-19 affected your business and you’re dealing with not enough work and financial hardship.

No matter what your situation, you still need a physical and mental break. Health is important, especially if you’ve been working from home and spending hours at your desk.

When you need a break, it’s possible to turn your home into your own little gym. And you won’t need to invest in gym equipment! A health and fitness influencer I discovered on TikTok is @justinagustin, a fitness trainer who teaches you simple workout routines using equipment you can find at your home. For example, you can use a wall, a chair, a towel, a bed, or your sofa for low impact workouts. And practicality isn’t his only concern.

In some of his videos he partners with @kathleen_jd to show the same exercise at both beginner and advanced levels. You can choose the level most comfortable for you. For those who aren’t super fit (or became less fit from working from home and not going out as much) these exercises are very manageable.

From a business point of view, I thought it was very clever to show exercises that you can try where you are. Workout videos using equipment typically found at the gym would require modification if you don’t have it, and if you’re not a fitness expert, you may not know how to adapt an exercise without gym equipment.

If you’re self isolating and working unusual hours (which some entrepreneurs do), then playing one or more of these fitness influencer’s videos will have you working out with your virtual workout buddy and mentor.

Health and Fitness Influencers that Grew Their Audience

At some point in the pandemic, “non-essential” businesses had to close, including chiropractors. However, if you’re entrepreneurial minded, you’ll always be thinking how to pivot your business, adapt to changes, and keep bringing in leads.

The next health and fitness influencer to catch my attention is a health expert who thought just like an entrepreneur. He took advantage of the closure of his chiropractic office to combine his expertise in back, neck, and knee pain tips with his love for music. Mixing his career and hobby had amazing results.

Not only did he gain a following by sharing health tips to catchy music, but he also started a trend in which other medical and healthcare experts started to give their expert advice to catchy tunes. Jordan Estrada’s success was documented in Insider.com.

From an entrepreneurial point of view, it was a clever way to warm up the market. He sees clients who recognize him from TikTok, and marketers know that people are quicker to buy from someone they trust. The TikTok star spends about 10 hours making this social media content.

I’ve watched some of his videos on back pain whenever I’ve had a mild tightness in my back from sitting too long and staring at the computer. A sedentary lifestyle and remote work can result in way too much stiffness in the back or neck. When that happens, it’s time to enjoy some tunes and work on getting your body back into shape.

Staying Healthy and Fit While Teaching or Learning

If you couldn’t attend dance class or fitness class because these facilities were closed, TikTok brought lessons to you. Well, not full lessons because the videos are so short. But many health and fitness influencers broke down dance steps or showed off dance routines in bite-sized bits that brightened a busy day.

I watched these videos, often during a break, and became amazed with jaw-dropping dance routines or risky jumps and leaps. These I watched for entertainment. There were so many fascinating influencers in this space that I had a hard time choosing just one to highlight for this article.

TikTok also had videos that taught dance moves step-by-step for familiar dances like bachata. I’m out of practice these days with the closure of dance studios, but I appreciated the quick little lessons.

These videos are a wonderful inspiration to entrepreneurs. I like to see how the videos display people’s talents and help them to grow an audience organically. I also like to learn from them. Dances and displays of physical skill (including contortion) are amazing to watch.


Whether you have a sedentary lifestyle from working remotely or you’ve been gaining weight from being stuck at home, you can easily spare a few minutes here or there to exercise at home. TikTok health and fitness influencers are one source of videos for quick fitness lessons in easily consumable units. And if you’re an entrepreneur, they can be a source of inspiration for how to grow an audience and increase your brand awareness.

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Successful Cold Market Prospecting

Wouldn’t life be perfect if you opened your own business and customers started to appear? The reality is potential customers are everywhere if you can understand exactly what they are looking for.

You don’t need to know what flavour of ice cream they crave, or what features they want on their smartphone. You just need to get a better idea about their goals. Everyone is looking for something better: improved health, more money, career advancement, bigger goals… more adventures.

The story behind each person is worth discovering… just take the time to learn more about them by asking questions.

When you’ve got the undivided attention of a potential customer in front of you, that’s the moment to get to know them better. There are four types of questions to ask if you are prospecting your cold market (people you’ve just met). Where you start depends on the flow of the conversation and how social your prospect is.

The four questions fall into a technique called the FORM method: family, occupation, recreation, and money. You can use this for a B2C business (business to consumer), especially for an MLM or network marketing business.

When you have the opportunity to speak with your prospect, start with an ice breaker question. Find out what brings them to the networking event. Or ask them what they’ve been doing since your last conversation or meeting.

Let the conversation develop organically. Don’t force a question to complete your checklist. Eventually, you want to find answers to the four types of questions to get as complete a picture about your prospect as possible.

Ask questions about their family.

The topic of family can be as casual or personal as you want it to be, depending on whether your prospect opens the door to this, or whether you feel comfortable asking questions about family.

If your prospect mentions that the reason they want to start their own business is they want to be able to provide for their family, then you can find out more. What do they mean by family? Their parents? Their spouse and children?

If your prospect is asking about the health products you are selling are “Not for me, it’s for my sister,” then that comment opens the door to more discussion about why your prospect is the one doing the research.

Perhaps they are the one who takes initiative. Or they are the one who will be paying for the treatment. It is also possible they are the family member who is most open to new techniques and inventions. Knowing this information will help steer you in the best direction for your business. If the prospect is seriously investigating products for their sibling, then meeting with the sibling is the next step.

Your prospect may be inquiring about your services because she is expanding her own business. You observe a wedding band on her finger as she is reaching for her coffee cup. You could find out about her spouse by making a comment about what it’s like for you to have a significant other who supports you as a business owner.

Relating to the prospect helps you to start a discussion to find out if your prospect is hesitant to spend more on services because of family obligations.

Ask questions about their occupation.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to find out about a prospect’s personal situation while talking about business. Some people are just less likely to open up, or don’t see how their family life affects how they network with business contacts.

If your prospect has a job, it’s usually safe to ask what they do for a living and how long they have been working at that job. Other questions you might ask are whether they enjoy their work, or what they like about what they do. These questions about employment reveal quite a bit about your prospect.

If your prospect has been working for a long time at a job they hate and wish they could change their career, it’s possible they aren’t very ambitious. It’s also possible that family obligations prevent them from taking the risk to change careers or jobs.

If your prospect has a history of ambitious career advancements, and projects that involve leadership and responsibility, then you are likely to be dealing with someone who is open to changes and leaving their comfort zone if it results in self improvement.

Learning about your prospect’s personality and goals by asking questions about their occupation will help you to figure out how likely they are to try a new product or service, particularly if you are selling a high-ticket item, or something that is new to the market.

Ask questions about recreation.

What does your prospect like to do for fun? Where do they like to travel? What hobbies do they have? Do they play sports or enjoy fitness?

Of all the topics for FORMing, this one is best for small talk, particularly if you are just starting to get to know your prospect.

If your business is wealth creation, such as investments, then asking your prospect about their interest in travel or hobbies will tell you more about how they prioritize their money.

Do they like to save up for long vacations overseas? Do they actively participate in activities such as skiing and fishing? Or are they happy with local day hikes and trips to the library?  If they wish they could go on vacation three times a year, then find out more about their plans to see how your business can help them.

Similarly, discovering that your prospect is very fit and has a gym membership they regularly use, camping equipment that doesn’t catch dust, and an abundance of stories about local hikes, then they are more likely to be interested in your health business, particularly if they want to recover from muscular injuries faster.

The opposite can also be true. You may find out that your prospect spends their time watching shows on TV because they struggle with health issues. Finding out that they wish they could play baseball with their friends can open the door to a discussion about how your health business could help them.

Ask questions about their financial goals.

People are more guarded when talking about their finances, particularly with people they don’t know well. If your prospect is someone you’ve just met, then asking about their financial goals is a lot more challenging, but not impossible. The line of questioning will be more indirect, particularly if the prospect isn’t as open.

Asking about the prospect’s occupation can tell you a bit about their financial goals. If your prospect is a lawyer who has expensive hobbies and just bought a house last year, this may tell you something about the income bracket they are aspiring to.

Ask questions about how they are liking the new home and neighbourhood. Maybe they’ll drop a hint that their spouse is happy and that’s what matters most to them. It could mean they are motivated to please their spouse with a certain lifestyle.

If the prospect says they want to cut back on spending, or they want to get another job to afford the things they want, then this information will reveal something about their income goals. One prospect may be in debt and believes spending less is the key to a better life. Another prospect may be struggling with living within their means, and believes it’s possible to afford more, if they increase their cashflow.


No matter which topic you begin with in the FORMing process, remember to listen and be genuinely interested in your prospect. Each piece of information may provide you with clues about your prospect’s values and goals. If you understand your prospect, then you will be better prepared to help them with your product or service.

NOTE: During the current COVID-19 pandemic, you can also FORM a prospect over a virtual meeting, or socially distanced meeting, depending on the health and safety standards where you live.

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Leadership and Race: Are Leadership Skills Affected By Our Identity?

Can we teach leadership skills without considering race and ethnicity? For a long time, I thought leadership was a skill that everyone could learn. But when I wanted to cite an example of a well-known female Asian business leader as an example for this article, I couldn’t think of a single name. I realized I had made an important discovery and after a little more digging, I found an alarming pattern.

The more research I did, the more I realized leadership in business and one’s chances of earning an executive level position were in fact strongly affected by one’s ethnic background. Asians in the United States, for example, held many professional positions but few top-level leadership positions.

When I looked at my own personal experiences with race, it was clear that race and ethnicity determined how people perceive you. If that were the case, how could we teach leadership skills so that all races and ethnicities would have a fair shot at executive positions?

Can Asians Ever Be Canadian?

Asians born in Canada or born in the US (or any nation that isn’t considered an Asian country) are familiar with the following inquisition when they try to explain to people that they are Canadian (or American or something other than Asian).

I’ve always considered myself to be Canadian. As for role models, I choose them from any ethnic background, although I prefer successful female businesswomen, so that I could aspire to become like them.

I have quite a few women role models: teachers I admire, bosses that inspired me, and favourite authors. But out of all them, none were Asian. When I looked at my business mentors, the situation was also grim.

My two business mentors are highly successful millionaires or near millionaires and both are Chinese. They are examples of how immigrants could come to Canada, work hard, and become financially successful. They were leaders that I could follow but they were men.

The successful women leaders that I could think of were the wives of these men. They hadn’t created their financial success on their own, but they learned leadership skills to help their husbands in their careers.

I decided to look past my own experience and see if I could find more successful Asian leaders in North America. First, I wanted to establish what qualities I wanted to see in a strong leader.

What Leadership Skills Should We Teach Managers And Executives?

When you think of leaders that you admire, what qualities do they have? Are they good listeners? Do they show empathy? Do they inspire you to work hard to attain their level of success?

The leaders I admire are very good at taking charge, providing direction for the team, and being someone you can depend upon. At the same time, even though they are the leader, or the boss, I never feel like they are demanding me to complete a task. They ask me in such a way that I feel that I’m doing them a favour. A favour that I’m not likely to refuse, of course, because it’s a request from a supervisor.

Do Asians have the leadership qualities that I’ve identified?

Maybe they do. And maybe they don’t. The American workforce either lacks Asians that have what it takes to be an effective leader, or they aren’t seen as having the qualities needed for leadership. A closer look at numbers reveals a gloomy situation.

How High Is the Bamboo (Glass) Ceiling for Leadership?

A 2010 study cited by Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that “Asians do outperform other minorities and white people when it comes to education, employment, and income.” If they are so successful, then shouldn’t they also successfully climb the corporate ladder as well?  

Apparently, they don’t have far to climb before they bump into the glass ceiling. HBR used the term “bamboo ceiling” – the equivalent to the glass ceiling. In addition to the 2010 report, it cited a 2015 report on diversity.

It found that, “Asians represent only 1.5% of corporate officer positions in the Fortune 500, according to 2012 data.” The situation for Asian women was worse because these women represented only 3.1% of executives five tech companies in a study, while Asian men represented 13.5%.

What could be creating these limitations?

All races face stereotyping at the workplace. Employment data cited above suggests that Asians are highly competent at finding high paying jobs. Their success may make them appear threatening in the workplace. However, Asians are also perceived to have a critical weakness.

The HBR article study observed that “stereotypes about Asians lacking social skills make them seem unfit for leadership.”

An article in Bloomberg suggests that Asian culture encourages communication and networking styles that go against the “mainstream dynamic of assertiveness and directness.” For this reason, Asian Americans are considered as fitting for “low- to mid-level management positions, but not top-level leadership.”

How Many Asians Are In Executive Positions?

A Silicon Valley report found that Asians were so underrepresented in leadership positions that they were grouped into other, larger categories. In the report, “Asian men are lumped into a ‘non-underrepresented’ category with white men” while “Asian women are assigned to a category that includes women of all races.”

These types of numbers were repeated in other industries, where Asians continued to be underrepresented in the executive ranks of companies. See the table below.

What can be done to increase the number of Asians in top level executive jobs? Could their social skills truly be so lacking that they would be unsuitable leaders? Or would it be possible to teach leadership skills in such a way to compensate for disadvantages from any cultural differences?

Future of Leadership Skills

It would be interesting to see the data for other races and ethnicities. What is the ratio of their ethnic group in jobs in an industry, compared to the percentage in executive positions for that industry?

If a wide gap exists between the lower ranks and the executive ranks, what can be done to level the playing field in leadership?

From these studies in this article alone, it seems that perception of cultural differences affect how people from different races are promoted to leadership positions.

In future, one recommendation would be to design leadership training skills that address stereotyping and culture. It’s possible to have talented and skilled leaders equally represented from all ethnic backgrounds.

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