Thursday, January 10, 2008

Qatar LeaderShape '08

How do I describe the feeling one gets from being with students as they discover their passions and purposes in life? What is it like to know that they have immense potential, not only because of their talent but because of who they are and where they live? These are rhetorical questions but also questions of adequacy... Any description of my experience sharing the lead role for Qatar LeaderShape over the last week will certainly be inadequate but I'll try to provide a glimpse.

For a starter, Qatar LeaderShape was in a bit (what an understatement) of a different location than any I've experienced in the last 12 years of serving LeaderShape. This picture was taken on our next-to-last day while having poolside ice cream in celebration of one of our participant's birthdays. We overlooked a bay area in Al Khour, a beech resort north of Doha. Interestingly enough, the beech would have been a huge distraction for many Institutes but not for these students. They enjoyed it but didn't let it come in the way of their learning.

Qatar LeaderShape evolved from a cautious group of 58 students representing all our branches and representing untold national origins and cultures to a close-knit, caring, and appreciative community. The curriculum of LeaderShape, while needing cultural modification in a number of places, served very well as the platform. Students discovered themselves, explored what they cared about, learned to work across all types of differences, developed plans for how they can make a difference, and struggled with difficult questions of integrity. By definition, these students will provide leadership for the Arabian Gulf and beyond and they will do it more capably because they have experienced, and will hopefully remember, the lessons they learned.

There were so many high points that I cannot do justice to the experience. A young woman who stood alone when the question of academic integrity emerged - and by doing so, she drew everyone in the room to a new place in their own values. A young man who struggled with the balance between making money for a business that he anticipates serving - and then learned that there is something called social entrepreneurship that can make a difference in the lives of those who have few resources while still being profitable. A bright pre-med student who learned the importance of relationships and of working together to enhance the learning of all rather than toiling in isolation. A student born in California of Chinese parents who then moved to Saudi Arabia for his entire youth - struggling with where he can find a home and discovering that the journey of finding one's culture is not his alone. These are but a few of the profound encounters of the week.

The bottom line is reflected in a a metaphor I used in my closing comments - that of the pearl. Oysters are disturbed when grains of sand slip into their shells. Working at the grain, they create the pearl of great beauty and value. Qatar LeaderShape has disturbed the privilege of these incredible students, allowing them to make a difference in their world that they likely never anticipated. If their response is any indication (picture below), a new current of change is beginning that will be unstoppable.

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