I recently had the pleasure of running into a Gulf region colleague when I attended the International Leadership Association Conference in Prague. Her name is Katie O'Neil and she gave me permission to post her statement, offered to her Provost, about how she sees her work. As I continue to examine my own motivations and as I seek to understand the motivations of expatriate colleagues, I found Katie's reflections particularly compelling. Her post follows.
I see my role as a faculty member in the College of Business, as a member of the Zayed University community, as a guest of the United Arab Emirates, and as a researcher in Leadership and Change Management (focusing on the leadership development of pre-professional and newly professional Emiratis) as a midwife of change.
The UAE is undergoing a period of phenomenal change, one that may be seen as akin to a (re-)birth. My role, like a midwife, is to provide support during this process of systemic change (culturally, socially, economically, politically) and emotional transition. However, ultimately, the decisions, the pain, and the rewards of this process belong to our students, to their families, and to their communities.
They are the ones who must do the work; it is their change, their process, and although I may want to do the work myself (either out of kindness or ego), I cannot. My job as a mid-wife of change is to assist the Emirati community to attain its goals and to support them through this labor with my best advice and intentions, especially when it proves difficult and exhausting. My role is not to impose my beliefs but to share my understanding, experience, and empathy; to give advice; to support; to respect the competence, traditions, and decisions of the Emirati people as they determine their own future; and to trust that the choices they make are the right ones for them. And every day, I must remember that as an expatriate, researcher, consultant, and classroom teacher I have been given the privilege and honor of being a guest at this event.