Ethnic Leadership and Involvement Strategies: A Case Study of Ethnic Entrepreneurs

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Ethnic diversity has posed a serious challenge to contemporary corporate management. The current case study examines the leadership strategies by which ethnic entrepreneurs build and lead ethnocommunity-based business teams within mainstream network marketing organizations (NMOs) in North America. These strategies are summarized in a 5Es model, which includes envisioning, encouraging, engaging, empowering, and establishing. Ethnic minorities, especially those newly landed immigrants have increasingly become part of the network marketing industry due to various “push and pull” factors. Both individual and institutional barriers “push” immigrants of minority status away from meaningful employment and workplace advancement whereas unique social and cultural heritage offer them advantages in mobilizing ethnocommunity resources. The NMOs provide a vehicle that “pulls” the immigrants to utilize their ethnic resources and establish their own sales organizations with minimum financial investment. Operating ethnic social network and practice cultural practice and leveraging on the mainstream NMO’s business system, the ethnic entrepreneurs in our study present vivid evidence of leadership roles played in a new land that was once thought as impossible. Based on the in depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, we examined the entrepreneur’s aspirations and their leadership tactics. We also analyzed the effectiveness of the leadership strategies as well as the challenges facing these entrepreneurs. The findings lead to implications for theory development in the areas of ethnic economy and leadership research, for policy and community initiatives toward building a culturally more inclusive society, and for industries, including those beyond network marketing, that are considering taking a more proactive approach towards the management of an increasingly more diverse work force.


Keywords: Ethnic Leadership, Leadership Strategy, Ethnic Entrepreneur, Ethnocommunity, Network Marketing Organizations
Stream: Organisations
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Howard Xiaohua Lin

Professor and Director, Ted Rogers School of Business Management, Ryerson University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Howard Xiaohua Lin, professor and director of the International Research Institute at Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, is ranked among top 40 most prolific researchers in the international business field worldwide and has studied diaspora entrepreneurship over three years. Lin has published many papers on cross-cultural interaction and immigrant economic integration. He is the primary investigator of a SSHRC-funded research project on immigrant entrepreneurship in North America and an Asian Pacific Foundation supported project on transnational communities and innovation.

Dr. Jian Guan

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Windsor
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Master in Anthropology from Hull University, UK and PhD in Sociology from Oklahoma State University, USA, currently teaching Leadership Ethics at Ryerson University and also working as a Program Evaluation Coordinator, Gateway for International Professionals at Ryerson University. Dr. Guan has focused her current research on topics related to bridging skilled immigrants to regulated professionals in Canadian mainstream labour market, including a research project “Ontario University Bridging Programs for Integrating Internationally Educated Professionals” funded by Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and Council of Ontario University. With this project, she is pursuing systemic change and social innovation through understanding different bridging models and analysing promising practice of integrating skilled immigrants. She had led and recently completed the study “Multi-Barriers for Immigrant Settlement and Integration” for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. She (with Dr. Howard Lin ) has conducted research on immigrant entrepreneurship in direct selling industry, which was funded by Canadian largest foundation, Social Sciences and Humanity Research Council. She has also participated in an Asian Pacific Foundation funded research on returnee entrepreneurs in China’s high-tech industries. Her previous research concerning minority and immigrants in North America spans a wide range of contexts, including physician-patient relationship, health care for Chinese elderly, and ethnic enclave communities. She has active in immigrant-related community service and received several awards for her contributions and media attention.

Ref: D08P0343