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April 1, 2020

Leading through the Crisis

As recently as a few weeks ago, it would have been laughable if not unfathomable to consider the impending transformation of our lives due to the coronavirus pandemic. None of us (perhaps except for a few epidemiologists) had a clue that our worlds to which we had grown accustomed (and in many cases taken for granted) would suddenly cease to exist.  Almost overnight, our busy lives were put on hold and our future was cast in uncertainty.  As COVID-19 spread around the world, we had no choice but to learn how to live in (physical) isolation from each other. Commonplace aspects of our lives — a quick dash to the market to pick up fruit, a hug with a dear friend — were turned on their heads.  Ironically, in an interconnected world, COVID-19 compelled us to close borders and, worse, minimize social interactions.  As if under siege — rather, we were under siege — many of us were confined to our homes, in many cases limited to virtual contact with the outside world.

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

Change isn’t easy – we all seek stability, certainty and predictability. But, today more than ever, change is always happening just when we think we can afford to get comfortable. So it is no use fighting change – neither is complaining about it.
Now, under these jarring and unprecedented new conditions which caused an almost instantaneous disruption to, and transformation of our lives, many events took on a whole new meaning. For example the first BiH Women’s Networking Conference, which took place in the beautiful town of Bosanska Krupa, organized by the association “Women United”.

CONFERENCE

The aim of our two-day conference was to bring women across all ages and backgrounds – from various parts of BiH (and the Diaspora) – together in one place to network, form lasting connections, exchange ideas on todays pressing issues, and most importantly to collaborate and support each other.

Everyone got to spend a wonderful weekend at the gorgeous venue “Zlatna Nit“, surrounded by awe-inspiring nature –  located just a 10min ride from the center of Bosnaska Krupa.  The conference was filled with thought-provoking panels, insightful workshops, art performances as well as valuable keynote addresses and activities designed to inspire and empower the participants  – to create positive change in their personal lives and their communities.

Mandala Academy founder Vildana Bijedić addressed the significance of female leadership in today’s digital age. Vildana spoke of the significance of female leaders to remind the audience of the numerous aspects of female greatness and power.

During personal, academic and professional phases of her life, Vildana has had the opportunity to learn about, and in some cases from, different types of female leaders. During her talk, Vildana discussed several well known national and world female leaders, young and old, from various industries, which made the audience realize the diversity of true leaders.

FEMALE LEADERSHIP

Vildana began her talk asking the audience to raise its hands if they consider themselves leaders. Less than half raised their hands. Why do women have a hard time seeing their potential as leaders?! This is something with which women not only in BiH but around the world are faced. According to research, 86% of women report that when they see more women in leadership, they are encouraged they can get there themselves.

Women United conference, Bosanska Krupa.

 

One of the main takeaways from Vildana’s talk was that female leadership can become a centrifugal force for good in the world.  But what defines a great leader? Key personality traits of a successful leader highlighted by Vildana are curiosity, transparency and empathy – as leaders we need to remain steady, proactive, and responsive to constant change.

Vildana asked members of the audience what each could do individually to create for more female leaders. How can I serve?  What we know for sure is that leaders (both women and men) are not always liked or appreciated, but that the best serve the greater good of their organizations and hopefully of society.

COVID-19

As the virus continues to spread, our governments, researchers and health facilities must commit to ensuring that women in leadership roles especially in health services is not the exception, but the norm.  Looking at the COVID-19 response experiences across the world, in many countries such as Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Taiwan, elected female leaders have meticulously managed a crisis that has killed thousands in otherwise developed nations.
This crisis requires a return to leadership fundamentals: empathy, humility and gratitude.  Prioritizing women’s voices in the response will set us up for a more equitable and healthy future while serving the greater good. Instead of encouraging women to act like male leaders, what if we asked men to adopt some of the effective leadership behaviors more commonly found in women?

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