From February 14-16, 2010, RCLA and the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute convened
24 eminent scholars and practitioners committed to illuminating and
nurturing leadership for public well-being in the Middle East and
beyond. Whether working for youth and women's empowerment, engendering
corporate citizenship, or organizing communities in conflict-ridden
areas, they discussed leadership that transcends sectors, transforms
ordinary citizens into agents of change, and opens up new public spaces
for deliberation and engagement.
Practices of boundary spanning were seen as fundamental to leadership for public wellbeing. “Boundary spanning” was really an umbrella term for various practices - enabling collaboration between government, civil society and business; blending and mixing various methodologies in tackling public issues; and drawing on the historical well of leadership and cultural practices in advancing leadership while challenging and modernizing tradition.
The sharing of various experiences with leadership for public wellbeing generated practical implications for furthering its practice in the region. The group discussed actionable ideas for the study of leadership, teaching leadership in higher education settings and leadership development/training programs. Amidst the range of these ideas a common need was expressed for collaborative and supportive peer networks for scholars and practitioners advancing leadership on the ground.
The convening culminated in a public event when three participants brought a cross-sector perspective on the topic of leadership for a new global era marked by increasing interconnectedness, complexity and uncertainty. Fadi Ghandour, Founder and CEO of Aramex International; Barbara Ibrahim, Founding Director of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo; and Asya Al Lamki, Cultural Attaché of the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington, DC engaged in a lively conversation moderated by NYU Abu Dhabi Provost MariÃ«t Westermann.
The panelists discussed their own experience as leaders of public wellbeing leveraging their own spheres of influence to address collective challenges. These included building the field of philanthropy to have a more systemic and institutionalized approach, furthering women’s rights in an endogenous way, advancing corporate governance and citizenship to enhance the wellbeing of impoverished communities, and promoting cross-cultural understanding by building on the opportunities presented by an increasingly interconnected world.
These experiences converged in the understanding that such collective undertakings require a more dispersed form of leadership where authority is distributed throughout multiple levels of a system. The panelists discussed that what often inhibits action is the understanding of leadership as a lofty and distant concept reserved for those at the apex of organizations. A more ‘humble’ form of leadership is needed that is about taking action on the front lines — one which ordinary citizens can relate to and exercise.
Experts discuss the leadership needed in philanthropy, cross-sector
collaborations in the Arab world, leadership as practice, and more.