Publication Date

April 2019


Robert Steele




English (United States)


Statistics show that Asian Americans are underrepresented in many leadership spaces. In the present study, 12 Asian and Asian American leaders in academia, business, NGO, and politics were interviewed about their leadership experiences, leadership ideals, self-perceptions as leaders, understandings of other Asian American leaders’ experiences, and sources of support. Similar to previous research (e.g. Kawahara, Pal, & Chin, 2013), the present study shows that participants shared a collaborative leadership style with an emphasis on communication. They also viewed support from their communities and mentors as important in their achievement. Additionally, participants indicated both interest and initiative in pursuing leadership roles. They also actively worked toward building a pipeline of opportunities and resources for aspiring Asian American leaders. While they viewed racial stereotypes and biases as major challenges Asian American leaders must overcome, they also acknowledged that factors such as gender, age, and socioeconomic status play an important role in shaping their experiences. Lastly, participants were empathetic toward other racial minorities’ struggles in rising into leadership spaces. Overall, findings from the present study show that the “docile Asian” stereotype is inaccurate and more resources are needed for Asian Americans who are interested in developing leadership.



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