- On November 15, 2016
I was, literally, on the road to Marrakech, a 6+ hour drive from Fez. I spent the last two weeks experiencing the cultural and culinary heritage of Morocco. By the end of the trip, I felt warmly welcomed by the people, intrigued by their culture, and enamored of their food. I brought home more than a beautiful handmade carpet and a book of tagine recipes– I brought home admiration for their national presence.
Random thoughts on leadership while staring out at the passing countryside:
In this VUCA world we live in (VUCA= volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), we as leaders face difficult choices as we navigate the personal, professional, and even national changes that come our way. Some impressions of Morocco as it applies to leadership:
1. Balancing stakeholders and competing priorities.
Morocco has an intriguing history. It has a strong Jewish heritage, which it actively honors to this day even though the Jewish population now is a tiny fraction of what it once was. Morocco is a kingdom and a Muslim state with direct lineage to the Prophet, and it decries fundamentalism and chooses inclusivity as a national value. It is an African state, just recently rejoining the African Union. Finally, it has close ties to Europe through its proximity to Spain and its French colonial heritage. Quite a balancing act.
As a leader, how do you navigate competing priorities and ensure that all stakeholders have your attention?
2. Responding to resistance with inclusivity
The “Arab Spring” of 2010 was a potent call for change in the nations of North Africa and the Middle East. In Morocco, the response to the ‘awakening’ movement was to acknowledge its diverse heritage and include, rather than resist, the minority voices by adding this proclamation to its constitution:
“A sovereign Muslim state, committed to its national unity and territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco shall seek to preserve its diverse indivisible national identity. Its unity, which is built on the convergence of its Arab-Islamic, Amazigh, and Sahara-Hassani components is nurtured and enriched by African, Andalusian, Hebraic, and Mediterranean constituents.” –Constitution 2011, Preamble
As a leader how do you respond to discontent or resistance? Dig your heels in? Crush or ignore the resistance? Become increasingly frustrated when others don’t see your logic? Or acknowledge that resistance can tell you something and listen to find an inclusive way to span the divide?
3. What you say and do matters…in ways you may not even know.
I was in Marrakech the three days around the U.S. election and it was very evident that I was not the only one who was feeling a stake in the outcome. Everyone I met, from shopkeepers to lodging staff to academicians, was following the U.S. election closely. They all felt intimately tied to its outcome. The people I spoke with largely admired the moderating influence of the U.S. on a volatile world stage and the positive example of integrating diverse cultures. Will they still have that same feeling of confidence and trust in the U.S. in 2017?
As leaders, what you say and do matters—a lot. It becomes your ‘presence’ and sends messages of hope, anxiety, confidence, fear, or distrust. What are you saying or doing…and is this the ‘leader presence’ that is most effective in navigating a VUCA world?
Photo: JMaliszewski, 2016, marble floor in Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca Morocco