Zainab Salbi: The Leadership Journey

September 27, 2018
The Great Hall

Reflection  | PodcastPhotos

A.P.E.X. Events presents the founder of Women for Women International, best-selling author and humanitarian, Zainab Salbi. Named as one of the “25 Women Changing the World” by People Magazine and one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy Magazine, Salbi is dedicated to serving the cause of women and marginalized voices. Join her Thursday, September 27 at 11:30 a.m. in the Gilbert Great Hall at Southern Utah University. This event is free and open to the public.

Press Release - A.P.E.X. Events: Zainab Salbi, The Leadership Journey

Event Reflection

by Billy Clouse

Opening her talk, author and humanitarian Zainab Salbi told the story of a man named Leo, who started giving up his individualism in order to more easily climb the ladder in his career. By the time he had children, Leo owned only blue suits, and when his daughter asked if blue was his favorite color, he had forgotten that his favorite was brown.

In her talk, the founder of Women for Women International described what she called her own "Journey of the Blue Suit."

Growing up, Salbi's family visited with Saddam Hussein regularly, and she feared him. When she was in leadership roles, she was afraid because she connected the idea with fear and authoritarianism. As she began, she wore what others said she should and she sat at the head of the table; even though it made her uncomfortable, other leaders told her that was where she should be.

Salbi described the years of early leadership as "success and safety juxtaposed with failure and loss." Although Salbi was beginning a successful career, she inwardly felt like she was lying to others because she wasn't being authentic.

As she experienced more, she realized this wouldn't work. According to Salbi, "When we live our lives in fear, we instill fear in others." She also discovered that emotions can't be outrun, so instead of trying to dodge the feeling that she's not doing enough, she embraces it and works through the feelings until they move on.

Later in the talk, Salbi explained the important aspects of decision making in leadership, the first of which is compassion.

It's easy to express compassion toward people we love, but it's much more difficult to express it towards people we hate. However, it's important to understand where people are coming from. An example Salbi gave was when she convinced a militia leader to stop raping women; after realizing he wouldn't stop for moral reasons, she appealed to his sense of self-preservation, explaining the danger of STIs, specifically HIV. If he didn't want to jeopardize his health and life, he would have to stop.

The second part of decision making is knowledge; a proper choice can't be made without looking at an issue through multiple perspectives. The third facet is having free will. What Salbi meant by this is that we need to be able set down our desires and focus on our inner story.

Finally, in order to make the right decision while leading, everything must be done with love. Firing someone may be difficult, but if a leader works out of love for the organization, they will be able to do the right thing. On a personal level, Salbi evaluates what she eats in relation to whether or not it shows love to her body, as well as whether the things she buys shows love for the earth and its decaying climate.

Perhaps the most moving statement from Salbi's lecture was, "No matter how much you shape your life to please others, you will never succeed in that, so reverse the process."

Join us on Thursday, October 4, for Dr. C. Bradley Thompson's lecture in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center at 11:30 a.m.