Leadership Lesson From the Middle East

business man with a swordWitnessing the recent events in the Middle East has provoked feelings and reactions on many levels. Since this blog focuses on leadership, we want to point out a leadership lesson that we see. (Note: Because this is a leadership blog we are NOT making any comments about the political, economic or larger social implications of what is happening. We recognize that what is happening is complex.  We are going to pull out and comment on a particular thread.) When a situation is large scale and extreme, it creates a “stark relief map” where things become  vividly visible. This is why looking at the leadership in the Middle East is relevant to leadership within organizations. Similar dynamics can and do happen within many organizations, just on a more subtle and less complex level.

At its core, we are seeing the consequences of autocratic leadership - most often referred to in organizational terms as “command and control” leadership. One of the issues that is driving people in these countries (Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, et al.) to rebel is that they aren’t being listened to – they are not able to contribute to, collaborate on, or have self-determination regarding their lives and and social experience. The leadership is stubbornly, (and even violently), determined to set the agenda. A handful of people are deciding how everyone lives.

Organizational leaders often do similar things and create a similar atmosphere and culture. Like the Middle Eastern leaders, they feel entirely entitled to do so.  After all, they are the leaders right? Recently this has been most apparent in larger corporations, particularly those that have failed or nearly failed. CEOs have been very separate from the day-to-day work and workers and paid enormous salaries. There have been many examples of their workers losing their jobs and subsequently their retirements and homes while these CEOs walk off with multi-million dollar golden parachutes. This is similar to many of the Middle Eastern countries where leaders are living incredibly well and will continue to, even if they are forced out,  while their people don’t have enough to eat or real economic opportunities.

Paraphrasing a quote in the Wall Street Journal by a rebelling university educator in Bahrain, “We wanted some simple changes. They wouldn’t listen, they killed us, and now the king has to go.” This is the peril of leaders who don’t include, collaborate, respect and listen to their people. Your teams may not be able to rebel and overthrow you, but they will quickly learn their best efforts are not respected, so why bother? The best will leave. Resignation will set in for the rest and, at best, you will get vicious obedience or malicious compliance.  As gossip and complaining builds, the culture becomes poisoned. When your team is not listened to and does not have inclusion and opportunity, (just like the citizens of the Middle East), creativity disappears and productivity drops to a minimum relative to what's possible.

So does this mean as a leader you must live in fear of your people? That you must make sure everybody likes you? Try to please 100% of the people 100% of the time? Reach perfect consensus on everything? Of course not, but you will likely be surprised how far respectful listening, inclusion, positive feedback and validation will get you. People know when they are truly valued and when they are being strung along or are fundamentally disrespected. They also know when there are opportunities for advancement, for growth, for creating a job/role function that is needed and when jobs are a dead-end. This goes back to our post last week, “Viva The Naysayers,” – if your team is just your “hands and feet” or you are “deriding the naysayers and wet blankets” you are in the same leadership spectrum as the Middle Eastern leaders. Your way or the highway just doesn’t work anymore.

We are in a new year. Are you ready to re-evaluate your leadership style and skills? Are you ready to do some self-reflection and decide what kind of leader you really want to be? Are you ready to be part of your team?  Consider that you may not be able to that by yourself.  If you are serious, get intervention!  We, of course, say do our courses, study our book, and get coached, (yes, shameless plug noted).  If not us, then go find another great resource and get to work!

Leading a Meaningful Life

Author's Note: Building on last week's blog post which was my key note speech at a Women's Symposium in China I am posting the talk I am giving to the same group of Chinese Women Leadership Students for an upcoming break out session. SIAS UniversityIn the opening ceremony, I did a quick scan of the global picture of women’s leadership in the highest positions. I outlined a simple process to follow to make you most effective in your pursuits. I then pointed out a series of qualities for you to bring to your work to be successful. Lastly, I addressed the requirements for men to be most supportive of a woman's passion and purpose. I declared that in the end both women and men must listen to their hearts and trust themselves. Identify your vision or "Yonder Star" and the path to it and get to work! Be courageous, authentic, collaborative, compassionaite, patient and persistent. The joy in in the journey and the learning along the way.

In this session, let’s dig deeper. Let’s get down to what it’s really going to take to live a life you love and produce outcomes that have you shouting “YES!”

As you will experience, life gets harder in the middle as things like jobs, family, housing, school, and medical expenses take your energy. It will be hard to remember what you said you were committed to when you were in college. You have to step out into the world and be defeated a few times to test your resolve. Can you get back up, shake yourself off, and continue to pursue your vision or will you step to the side and only make gestures? Will you let your circumstances or situation determine your life and just complain about it? Perhaps you will just suffer in silence, hoping you can do better in your next lifetime? Do you know anyone like that?  They didn’t plan their lives to turn out that way!  So what happened?

Life happened. Circumstances happened. As you go along, the evidence and the agreement of others stacks up about how hard it really is to make a difference. In your lifetime it will be even more challenging. In an age of uncertainty, rapid change, volatility, the rapid spread of instant information, and the breakdown of traditional practices and culture, it will be more confusing than ever.

I see all of this as great news for you. The more the past ways are losing their grip, the more freedom you will have to innovate and the greater that demand will be for your courageous leadership. Please note an emphasis on courageous and recall how I used David Whyte’s definition of courage in the opening ceremony, “developing a friendship with the unknown.”  Why is that so important?

When the pressure is on and circumstances are pressing in on you, it is very normal to fall back to what you know from your past. The problem for leaders is that your past won’t help when what you need to accomplish your Yonder Star are bold new strategies and partnerships that are different from past practices. To get your passion and purpose back on the path to leadership, you will have to get comfortable with not knowing what to do. You will have to stay uncertain long enough to discover new strategies and new team members that can lead you beyond the world you and others knew and find comfortable. You will have to learn to become very comfortable with being uncomfortable!

GraduationatSSo let’s get specific. Here is an example of a really big vision or Yonder Star. Applicants for next year’s World Forum For The Future of Women were asked to write a brief essay on women's lives in a perfect world. Part of what one woman said was,  “In a perfect world, women are really equal with men. They do not have to lose weight in order to get the praise of their boyfriends. A woman is a god of herself, not her boyfriend, family or someone else. She is totally free and her spirits are strong. She makes her own life colorful and has a say in society. She belongs to herself. She belongs to the world too. She thinks for the animals, the children, even our beautiful world. Her eyesight is so big. Life is full of ups and downs, but she always keeps her heart basking in the sun. She knows that every dawn will present a fine prospect for her to unfold and the world will always be about new hopes in her eyes.”

Does that Yonder Star call to you?  What do you think it will take to make that vision real in the world? If it fits you, what will you have to change about yourself and the way you have dealt with life in the past? If you answered “I don’t know,” you are wise. No one knows today what it will take to fulfill such a bold vision. To be successful with such a vision, you will learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable or not knowing. 

The other critical aspect of being able to fulfill your Yonder Star is to make it very, very public and develop lots of partners in your vision. The more people you include, the more creative input you will get. More importantly, there will be more people to remind you about your commitment when you forget.

Now I want to remind you that the only powerful vision or Yonder Star for you is the one you choose.  No project is too big or small if it is truly yours. This is one of the hard parts of leadership. There are so many social agreements on what’s right or wrong or what gets recognition at the moment and what does not. Unfortunately, many really important ideas are not appreciated by others when they are created. Many famous artists, for example, died before their work was recognized and many social reformers never lived to see the improvements that came from their lifetime of commitment and hard work.

You cannot live a life of true significance and also worry about whether you are getting lots of credit at the moment. You will have to find other sources of strength. You will have to become completely comfortable with your own vision and ideas and completely willing to own the consequences of your actions and inactions. You will have to be completely willing to deal with your circumstances.

For the women in the audience - to be a visionary, you will have to be very patient. It may be a struggle to bring men along with you on your path. Some of you may find it easier to stay single and simply focus on your work.  In some ways that will make your life much simpler. On the other hand, you will miss out on many of life’s joys including children and real partnership.

SIAS Administration buildingFor the men-if you intend to be a partner with a highly committed and passionate woman leader, be prepared for surprises. At times, your emotions may swing from very excited to wanting to give up. To be an equal partner will mean that much of what you have learned by listening and watching other boys and men while you were growing up will not be valid or useful in partnering. These old ways of relating to women may even cause you great pain.

For both of you, your guide will be the Yonder Star vision you share and your respect and love for each other. Beyond that, you and your partner will both be on a path of exploration. If you are frequently uncertain or confronted, you are probably doing the right work. If you are very comfortable, you may not fulfill your vision!

So what I have talked about are one or two very basic ideas it will take for you to be truly successful in fulfilling your Yonder Star or vision. It will be hard at times. It will take courage. You will forget your vision, you may not be able to find your commitment, and will have to be reminded. Your relationships can often be confronting, frustrating, or just disappointing. Discovering the joy and satisfaction of equal partnership as you express your passion and purpose on the path to leadership will make it all worthwhile.

As I summarized in my keynote it will ultimately come down to listening to your heart and trusting yourself.  Identify your Yonder Star and the next steps on your path to fulfilling it and get to work. Be courageous, authentic, collaborative, compassionate, patient, and persistent. The joy is in the journey and the learning along the way. Be thankful that you are one of the people who will have the opportunity to live a meaningful life!

Putting Your Passion and Purpose on the Path to Leadership

About half the class from the World Academy of Women  


This week I am privileged to be speaking to the women of  The World Academy for the Future of Women at SIAS International University in Xinzheng City, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China.  For the past 18 months or so we have been working with Global Interactions and their President Jerrie Ueberle, (as well as others),  to co-create curriculum and a program for The Academy. In conjunction with this, their 4th Annual Women's Symposium is also being held and my speech will be part of that symposium. Suzanne and I will be teaching at The Academy and participating in the symposium. This project has had an enormous impact on us here at 2130 Partners and has been an amazing learning experience.

The symposium is titled "Women Making a World of Difference: Putting Your Passion and Purpose on the Path to Leadership" and I was asked to address the subject of  "Being Heard In A Man's World." I have to confess to some trepidation to doing this speech. What do I as an older Western male have to say to brand new graduates of a women's academy in  China? I thought long and hard about this. Given my more than 30+ years experience as an investor activist for the end of world hunger I firmly believe the education and empowerment of women around the world is absolutely crucial to our collective global future. So after much reflection, here is the speech I will be giving:

Putting your Passion and Purpose on the Path to Leadership will require that you speak up, take risks, and be heard to move your goals from a dream to reality.  You will not be alone! Bold women around the world are stepping up and challenging traditional ways, with major consequences at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. They are insisting on being heard in a world where women’s voices have long been marginalized or ignored.

Pursuing your path to fulfillment will bring you up against many barriers and pitfalls and will require you to deal with things you can barely imagine now.

Today, I will outline a simple process to follow to make you most effective in your pursuits.  I will then point out a series of qualities for you to bring to your work to be successful. Lastly, I will address what will be required of men to be most supportive of you passion and purpose.  The work is hard and confronting, however, the satisfaction and rewards are enormous.

Women are clearing a path for you by moving into top leadership roles on a worldwide basis, more so in government than in large corporations. With the recent election of Laura Chinchilla as President of Costa Rica, the world has 26 women heads of state and government.  India passed a law in 1993 that required that 33% of all positions in local government, called Panchayati Raj, be women.  That law has allowed 1,000,000 women at the local level to take on leadership roles in their communities, which means more women in public office in India than in all of the reset of the world put together.  In addition, the Indian Parliament is currently debating a new law that would extend the 33% requirement to the national level in its own lower house.  China has 21% women in its National People’s Congress.  By contrast, the percentage of women in the US Congress and State Governors positions averages 17%. Representation of women among top corporate executives in the 1,000 largest US firms averages 15.7%.  While these numbers still don’t reflect the fact that women make up one-half of the world’s population and “hold up half the sky,” they do represent a significant number of women in influential roles.

As women achieve more powerful roles and higher incomes, however, a combination of old and new threats must be dealt with.  Traditional cultural practices are still producing great discrimination against women and girls, from employment and educational opportunities right down to the aborting of female fetuses and abandonment of female babies in very large numbers.  Estimates are that there would be over 100 million more women in the world if this were not taking place. In addition, fundamentalist religious sects are going to great lengths to suppress women across the world.  At the personal level, pressures for conformity to old ways exist in every community.

So what is the appropriate action?

First and foremost, you must pay close attention to these existing conditions we’re talking briefly about here today.  The work you will do to successfully fulfill your vision will take place in these conditions.  To be effective, you cannot wish them away, simply ignore them, or fight violently against them.

The process that will make you most effective is simple but it is not easy:

1)Develop a very clear expression of what your purpose and passion look like in the world when fully expressed.  In our company we call that your vision or your “Yonder Star.”

2)Make full, clear, and accurate account of the conditions that exist and in which you will be working.

3)Ask “what’s missing from my picture of my fulfilled vision today?” “Which of those issue would produce the most results in the shortest time and with the least effort if I get to work on it?”

4)Design projects to address that issue and get to work.

5)Monitor progress and redesign as necessary to fulfill your projects.

6)Keep going until you are building capacities and moving successfully toward your vision.

Remember, the key to effectiveness is to have your vision, pay attention to current circumstances, and focus your work in the gap between the two.

What will be required of you?

1) First and foremost, summon your courage. The courage that will be most valuable is what author and speaker David Whyte calls “developing a friendship with the unknown.”  Once you start on your path, you will have left your traditional, familiar surroundings and ways of relating to others and will be in unknown territory. If you are unwilling to be in that state and learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, don’t bother to get started.  You will be stepping out of historic roles and relationships and you will be insisting on what can and must be done to produce meaningful change.

2) Second, you must be willing to accept the consequences of your actions.  This does not mean, “be a victim.”  It simply says that all actions and even failure to act have consequences.  To be free to act effectively, you must be aware of the potential consequences and feel that the results are worth it. You must give up avoiding being criticized or thought of as weird. You will have to deal with rejection and pushback without taking it personally. The questions to ask are “what stops me now?” “Am I willing to focus on my vision and go past that barrier?” “Am I willing to have all of the consequences and not just the ones that are safe or that I call good?”

3) Third, focus on collaboration.  Develop strong alliances with other women who share your objectives.  Work together and support each other, especially when your courage is faltering, you can’t find your passion, and your purpose is blurred.  Find courageous men and teach them how to be your partners.  It won’t work to make men wrong, as that will just create a wall of resistance.  Success will involve teaching and enrolling them in how they will be better off by collaborating with you.  It works – my wife and I are living examples of equal partners who make great contributions to each other and our clients and community.

4) Fourth, summon compassion.  When you are causing change, some of the people around you, both men and women, will be threatened.  They won’t necessarily understand what you are doing or why.  Your family members may fear for your safety or that you will leave them.  Others may have their beliefs threatened or feel that they will be harmed in some way. Change of any kind, even good change, is an upset for people.  Forgive them for their resistance and help them understand the benefits.

5) Be patient.  Allow those around you to re-shape their relationship with you and with the changing roles of women in general. Balance the rate at which you are attempting to accomplish your work with their ability to absorb the changes you are bringing.

6) Develop and maintain your clarity- how do you intend your life to unfold?  What is the best path for expressing your passion and purpose? Remember, it is your life, so any path you freely choose is fine.  There are no right answers other than that!

7) Be authentic. The world has actually been waiting for you.  Be fully yourself, fully self-expressed, and let the world choose how much of you it wants and for what roles. You are the only person who has been genetically encoded to deliver what you offer by being fully you.

8 Be persistent. You will be amazed at how many excuses and seemingly very good reasons you will come up with to change or give up. Stay on your path (strategy) or get back on it when you stray.

9) Surrender.  If you have a really big passion and purpose, you will be immediately and often confronted by thoughts like “I’m insufficient,” “I don’t know how,” “I’m scared to death,” and “I’ll never get good enough fast enough to reach my Yonder Star!”  Success will require that you reach out to find team members and identify successful strategies.  When you get stuck, ask, “Who are my missing team members?” and “What are the missing strategies?”

What does this require of men?

1)  Enlightenment.  To receive the benefits of having powerful, effective women in their lives, men will have to be willing to be open to the opportunity and to not know how it is going to turn out. They will have to suspend their instant, automatic, and unexamined beliefs about women and the roles women should play.  They will have to be present to the opportunities before them.

2) Recognition.  To be able to partner effectively with women and benefit from their newfound power, men must realize and own that they discount or ignore women’s voices.  This will be extremely difficult for many men, as they do not realize that they do it currently.  The adjustment may be threatening or painful and they may experience a sense of loss.

3) Courage. Men who step up to being real partners with women may still face times when they feel threatened by the situation or the strength of the woman or women around them.  Further, they may have to stand the ridicule of other men who see them as weak or stupid. As with women, it will require developing a friendship with the unknown.  They won’t necessarily know what to expect from women or how to handle what is being said or done to them.

4) Action. In addition to all else, men will have to see and act on the opportunity offered by being in equal relationship with women whether as romantic partners, co-workers, or members of their community.

Ultimately, for both women and men, it will come down to listening to your heart and trusting yourself.  Identify your Yonder Star and the path to it and get to work. Be courageous, authentic, collaborative, compassionate, patient, and persistent. The joy is in the journey and the learning along the way. Go forth and prosper!

Leadership Legacy–Women University Students in China Take It On

One of 2130's Principals and Co-founders, Suzanne Frindt, recently returned from a trip to China.  She went there with two other key members of the 2130 team, Patty Vogan and Allison Haynes. The following are her notes on her leadership experience from this trip. SIAS_thumbWhen H1N1 knocked us out of the opportunity to speak at the Women’s Symposium on SIAS University Campus  in Zhengzhou, Henan Province in China earlier this year, we didn’t know at the time there would be another opportunity so soon to support emerging women’s leadership there. Through Global Interactions, we were invited to participate as Founding Facilitators for The World Academy for the Future of Women. SIAS University campus was chosen as the site to launch this program because of Global Interactions Founder, Jerrie Ueberle’s relationship with the University founder Shawn Chen. It is truly a unique university where East meets West architecturally, academically, and with a large foreign faculty.  I participated in the launch of the program at SIAS, and both Dwight and I will travel back to China in May, as visiting foreign faculty, to facilitate the final module of the program we co-created with a team called “Leadership Legacy”.

During my trip to assist in the launch last month I encountered a willing and supportive university administration, participative and engaged Chinese women faculty, and foreign faculty, as well as passionate, expressive and visionary students - both young women AND young men. It was amazing to me how committed the young men students were. They were anxious and happy to support the launch of the Academy in some way. Clearly they saw a place for themselves in the future of women! They did make one request -  ‘when can we launch the World Academy for the Future of Men?

One of the first tasks was to interview and select the women who would be part of the program. The women students were anxious to be selected and were eager to participate in the year-long leadership development program. Apparently in general, students in China are very committed. Especially at the University level because only a small percentage actually get to go to University. It can be expensive and it often takes four grandparents, and two parents to support the one child through school. There is tremendous family energy, money, and loans wrapped up in the academic success of just one child.

The women students shared with our team their hopes and dreams for their lives and for their communities, China and the world. They were awake and aware of the impact of environmental degradation in their own communities and many shared specific intentions of where their leadership could best be leveraged back in their own communities, all the while realizing they are part of a larger whole. It was amazing to experience this level of awareness, commitment and vision. I could see our future world leaders in early stages right before my eyes.  Ultimately, 97 women students were selected to be part of the year long curriculum. Student feedback is already amazing. Here is a note from one of the women selected for the program:  I am Cathy Tian, senior, majoring in English Translation. I am so lucky to be chosen as a member of World Academy. I write this letter to express my thanks to all of you. Thank you very much for all you have done and will done for us. Yesterday is an unforgettable day in my life and I will cherish every minute to learn with you all. I believe I can make a difference, I believe my dreams will come true. Thank you again and best regards. (In the picture: Suzanne, Patty and Allison at a candlelight welcoming ceremony for the students.)

An experience like this is an extraordinary opportunity on many levels. There are so many key learnings. Who knew China, a communist country, would be willing to have such a global university in their midst? Who knew there could be such an extraordinary program put together there for future women leaders? All of this really reminded me how big the world is, how much is going on we don't know or hear about and how much opportunity there is for the US to partner with other countries in cooperative and collaborative ways to develop strong relationships and unexpected positive outcomes.

Leadership Lessons From Poland

One of our recent international trips took us to Krakow, Poland to participate in a conference titled, “Transforming krakowthe World at Work,  An International Summit of Leaders and Practitioners” with participants from 14 countries.  Pathways Poland,  a wonderful young training and consulting firm that courageously took on a "first ever" such event in Poland, (or perhaps in Eastern Europe over all), sponsored the 4-day conference.  They invited their major clients and their Strategic Partner, John Scherer of the Scherer Leadership Center in Seattle, WA. They also invited an international list of OD (Organizational Development) professionals plus a few other educational firms such as 2130 Partners to come, participate, and present.  (As you will recall, we recently posted about John’s excellent book, Five Questions That Change Everything on this blog a couple of weeks ago.) The day after the conference ended we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration and


extermination camps, (actually three camps close together), where over 1.5 MM died.  We’ll spare the details of the camp itself and focus on our main leadership learning, however, we encourage you to read some of the material available on the web to broaden your understanding of the extent and perversity of what happened.

As you can imagine, alot happened on this trip on many levels. The biggest learning we have distilled is related to both the conference and the concentration camp. The learning really focuses on the defining role of vision or purpose.  In the case of the conference, hindsight suggests that many of us brought our own purpose for being there and did not align with the others, either at the start or throughout the event.  This left us at cross-purposes, and created opportunities for upsets and misunderstandings.  While the conference was a great start and a valuable experience, the overall outcome fell short of its potential for many, including the conference organizers.  We were very clearly reminded of the importance of creating shared vision and alignment, especially with a highly diverse group, before setting out to accomplish bold goals such as transforming the world at work. 

The Auschwitz-Birkenau experience was a brutal reminder that, even with a clear purpose, really bad things can happen if the opportunity for input from a variety of constituencies or points-of-view has been denied.  It’s impossible to imagine that the atrocities could have happened if other views within the German culture had been able to influence the German leadership’s course of action.  It is an extreme example of what can happen when those in power shut down differing perspectives. It is clearly quite possible to march the whole team in very dysfunctional directions!

vision pictureWhen we talk about creating a vision or a purpose is that something you actively do with your team? For yourself and your own life?  Are you practicing a Vision-Focused approach to your leadership of your business? Your life? If yes, are you open to input from others? Do those around you feel safe providing feedback that may be uncomfortable or with which you might disagree?  Are you ready to practice cooperation and alignment? Are you still in "command and control" thinking and behaviors?

Chiapas, Mexico: Leading From Vision

We have been on the road extensively in the last few weeks and have had wide-ranging and remarkable leadership experiences in very diverse cultures.  Over the next few posts we will share experiences and connections from Chiapas with The Hunger Project Mexico, from Krakow, Poland at a leadership conference sponsored by Pathways Polska, and from Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China at the launch of the World Academy For The Future of Women at Sias University.  In addition to these very inspiring moments, we visited the infamous Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz-Birkenau and experienced the dark side of leadership run amok. young womanThis post will focus on the Chiapas, Mexico trip. One of the most remarkable dimensions of this trip was meeting a twenty-year-old indigenous mother and leader, Margarita Ruiz Lopez.  (Click on her name for a link to her inspiring story.) Margarita has translated The Hunger Project’s materials into Tztoztil, (a local indigenous language), become trained to lead The Vision, Commitment & Action workshop (VCA), and become a Hunger Project Catalyst traveling to six villages where women are engaged in food, security, and income generation projects.

Our first encounter with Margarita was at the women's cooperative, J'Pas Joloviletik, where The Hunger Project Mexico is working on empowering indigenous women from 26 villages around San Cristobal de las Casas.  Our group of Activist Investors sat with a group of cooperative members, shared and connected with each other, (requiring double translation – English to Spanish to Tztoztil), and began to learn about their work.  The cooperative members had done the VCA workshop and six of the villages had taken on designing and implementing projects. Margarita led the discussion, handled the translation from Tztoztil to Spanish and back, and shared both her commitment and the very moving story of her journey from childhood to her present leadership role.

Over the next two days we traveled to villages where women shared their vision, their projects, and their homes with us. The women created these projects in their VCA Workshop as strategies for implementing their vision for their families and villages. In her role as a Catalyst, Margarita regularly visits to support them in solving problems and staying on purpose. 

Our third opportunity to be with Margarita was participating in a small part of a multi-day workshop with 42 women puzzlefrom six villages. Margarita co-facilitated this workshop, dealing calmly and brilliantly with women who were, for the most part, at least twice her age, (including her own mother). The workshop was a quarterly follow-up where they reviewed progress on their projects, designed new actions, and built new strengths together. At one point, we did an exercise that started with all of us blindfolded figuring out how to work together to assemble a puzzle. Afterwards we debriefed and there was sharing about the learning. This exercise was an amazing metaphor for what the women are faced with daily. They have a vision, but it's unclear how it will work out and they have to "feel around in the dark" for solutions. In the process they encounter everything from confusion, to fear, to resignation and the desire to quit. This all came to the surface during the exercise.

The women have a slogan, Ta’kuun kuun y sujuba, which means "step by step and quickly." It captures the spirit they bring and the strength they gain to pursue their work when they have a shared vision they created themselves.  They group photoare bold enough to take on the unknown, resilient enough to get up and go again after failure, creative enough to find solutions where none were apparent, and collaborative enough to draw power from each other.  

Margarita is an amazing a 20 year old mother who has had negligible opportunity in the world. Her childhood and life story are full of challenges. Her life now is a testimony to what is possible when leadership comes from shared vision and collaborative strategic planning with action steps and the capacity for follow-through. Clearly she is a powerful lesson about vision and that leadership is not dependent on your age, your history or your cultural background.

So how willing are you to empower the people around you in life by creating shared vision and supporting them in being all they can be as they design and execute shared solutions?