Saturday, November 17, 2007

No sooner did I get started...

The amazing thing about the time I've spent at Qatar Foundation is that there are so many things that have lined up so well. I had a day of other meetings and work after the Faculty and Student Services team retreat and then went immediately into the Qatar Symposium. The Symposium was sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University - Qatar. The main brain-trust behind the Symposium is Gloria, a wonderful and fun new colleague. The date of the Symposium was determined before I even knew I was coming here but it was uncanny how this event provided the opportunity to establish relationships and get a read on what's going on so quickly.

The Symposium site was a very cool new hotel in Doha - Al Sharq (picture to right and below). It has an Arab village feel with wonderful small villes, meeting rooms, and fountains and pools everywhere. I have to pinch myself when I'm in these kinds of places - not exactly like Oxford.

The Symposium started with a keynote from my superior and led into a reception where all the participants mixed and mingled. The next morning I was given the opportunity to kick off the day with a keynote about the purpose of the Qatar Foundation and the potential we have as colleagues of Education City. I always try to center myself so that I'm speaking from my heart but this particular morning was unbelievable. I felt so present and so focused that it was almost overwhelming. It was also as easy a speech as I've ever given. The primary reason - I believe so deeply in what we're doing.

The response to my keynote, the others who followed, and the general discussion over the course of the day was amazing. By the end of our time together, the branch and center representatives who were there were all ready to work hard to enhance our mutual work. There was a sense of the deep and critical importance of our work and everyone jumped in to say how they wanted to contribute. It was a very exciting day.

My challenges are now two: 1) keep the momentum going by pulling people together to refine the ideas we generated, and 2) maintain a focus on adaptive and facilitative leadership that keeps everyone at the table. In the particular case of Doha, Qatar Foundation, and Education City, things are so overwhelming that people just want someone to take care of it - fix it. The only problem - there isn't an easy fix and it takes all of us contributing everything we have in order to get the job done. Under these circumstances, it would be easy to get sucked into providing heroic and inappropriate leadership just because people want solutions so badly. The good thing is that everyone wants to do the work and we will. I've never seen this kind of commitment anywhere in my life experience - awe inspiring to say the least.

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