A Postcolonial Leadership: Asian Immigrant Christian Leadership and Its Challenges

In A Postcolonial Leadership, Hee An Choi proposes postcolonial leadership as a new leadership model for Asian immigrant leaders. Based on a critical analysis of the current situation in which Asian immigrants are never seen as leaders and their leadership is intentionally trivialized and characterized as followership, the author argues that Asian immigrants create a particular type of leadership within the US context.

In the first part of the book, the author provides various theories of leadership in both secular and Christian contexts. While trait theory examines distinctive qualities that enables a few individuals to become effective and influential leaders, transformational theory is interested in some attributes that challenge people to follow leaders, change their values, and control the environment. Far from the two theories that assume the hierarchical power dynamics between a leader and many followers, feminist theory proposes an alternative type of leadership that is collaborative, participatory, non-linear, and horizontal. The author argues that feminist leadership aims to deconstruct the patriarchal power structure male leaders and female followers. On the same side of feminist theorists, this author insists that leadership could be mutual through practices of empowering others and sharing power with them. By offering a brief history of development of Christian leadership, the author suggests that Christian women’s leadership can provide us with potential resources to create a new model of Asian immigrant leadership.

The second part focuses on current understandings and challenges of Asian immigrant leadership within the US context. With a critical analysis of how the white male leader has been normalized and idealized, the author addresses the privileged white group that has stereotyped other racial-ethnic leaders and denied their distinctive styles of leadership. By displaying the ways in which African American and Latinx leaders develop their own leadership to advocate for their human rights and serve their communities, the author argues that different styles of leadership challenge the white male dominance over the US landscape of leadership. In the same vein, as the author insists, Asian immigrant leadership is formed to deal with the daily challenges and concerns of Asian immigrants who are identified as the oppressed, the marginalized, and the voiceless.

The last part of the book proposes postcolonial leadership as a new model for Asian immigrants. Identifying it as a way of developing “a consciousness of difference” that challenges postcolonial institutional power and authority, the author argues that the aim of postcolonial leadership is to serve to make “better lives for Asian immigrants and communities and for the whole society within and beyond the US postcolonial context.” (189) By illuminating how contradictory features co-exist in a postcolonial leadership, such as hybridity and authenticity, or communality and individuality, the author argues that this way of featuring leadership style is intended to meet the needs of Asian immigrants who live “in-between hybrid cultures.” (219) To explain what Asian immigrants require for better lives – that is “to change realities for the immigrants, the powerless, the oppressed, and the marginalized” – the author imagines that postcolonial leadership contributes to nurturing resilient hope to battle various prejudices and forms of discrimination and creates a common ground to advocate for solidarity of others and with others. (189)

Hee An Choi’s research is significant to re-identify Asian immigrants as co-workers in the US postcolonial context. As the author points out, the dominant theories of leadership have denied differences and particularities of Asian immigrants that are central to the formation of identity and agency. However, the author reminds us of both the existence of Asian immigrant leadership that has resistive power to publicize marginal voices and its consequences that bring a resilient hope for better lives. This study will help us imagine that Asian immigrants participate in building a just society in which the dignity of all things and people involved is recognized and affirmed.


Hanbyul Park

Emmanuel College, University of Toronto

Categories: (M) Book Review

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