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‘Real leaders create more leaders’: An evening with Manjit Minhas

Key insights from a BLG event

Being a successful woman in business often means challenging limiting stereotypes, juggling personal responsibilities and navigating the male-dominated corridors of power.

For International Women’s Day and the launch of Driven By Women as a national initiative for women in business and law, BLG hosted Driven By Women: Perspectives on Equality with Manjit Minhas. Manjit Minhas, the Alberta-born CEO, entrepreneur, philanthropist, star of CBC’s Dragons’ Den, wife and mother, offered the audience of clients and firm members unique insight into her significant professional and personal successes.

Minhas’ dynamic keynote led the audience through her journey from a nineteen-year-old engineering student with a bold idea to Canada’s “Beer Baroness”. Full of colourful anecdotes (her first product’s label is an homage to an encounter with a black bear in the Rocky Mountains) and concrete advice, the event brought together current and upcoming leaders in a candid discussion of how women can succeed in a hyper-competitive world.

‘A brain to pick and an ear to listen’

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum: as Minhas stated, “We all need champions.” As a passionate mentor and mentee, she emphasized the importance of developing future leaders and fostering her own personal and professional growth.

While Minhas made the case for non-traditional mentor/mentee relationships, she doesn’t mentor on the phone or via email: face time is critical in developing long-term relationships and interpersonal skills.

Minhas continues to seek wisdom from her family and fellow industry leaders, and empowers other women to follow their passion, develop their platforms and break glass ceilings.

‘Dream in technicolour’

Being a lifelong learner is another key aspect of Minhas’ success. Despite her myriad of accomplishments, she warned against resting on one’s laurels by emphasizing the importance of always being the most passionate and researched person in the room.

She also encouraged the audience to maintain their curiosity, read widely and fight for seemingly impossible ideas and goals.

‘Master the day’

Despite the glut of advice in popular culture on how to achieve work-life balance, Minhas argued that everyone’s personal and professional lives are intertwined. This is especially true for women, who often must reconcile their careers with caregiving, emotional labour and prioritizing their own health and wellness. Instead, she offered a series of life hacks to maximize success in the face of conflicting responsibilities.

In order to keep her life manageable, Minhas schedules her day into hour-to-hour chunks. She also advocated for the power of saying no: if a person’s terms aren’t acceptable, don’t be afraid to walk away.

Transforming discomfort into opportunity

As a “young brown woman in the beer business,” Minhas shared experiences of having her leadership questioned: people have deferred to her brother (who is also her business partner) in meetings and have expected her to be the person pouring the beer rather than the CEO of the company.

When faced with adversity, Minhas advised the audience to galvanize anger into productivity and to be an unapologetic self-advocate.

She also argued the importance of being a master negotiator: while some may interpret negotiation as conflict, Minhas argued that “you get what you negotiate,” whether it’s a high-stakes deal or adjusting your child’s schedule.

Minhas’ keynote was a roadmap to personal and professional success. Emphasizing that there are no shortcuts, she encouraged the audience to be bold, take chances and continually strive for excellence: “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”