Think creativity, values-based leadership, and change. These words describe the Aspen Institute Fellowship program.
My experience with the Aspen Institute started upon receiving a call at the start of 2011 saying I was nominated to be a Fellow. At the time, I was not quite sure what it meant, though after some research and conversations with past Fellows I was pleased to hear that a great deal of good comes out of this 2-year program. I was informed that discussions within the sessions will lead to working on a project that would bring positive change within my community. Aspen will be investing in me. I accepted enthusiastically.
What was ahead of me was something truly beyond what I had expected. All twenty Fellows from across the Middle East met at the Dead Sea in September 2011. We read and discussed many leadership types from Thatcher to Martin Luther King, and Jack Welch to Machiavelli. But the Aspen program turned out to be not just about discussions on various leaders and their styles. It involved a journey of self-discovery into our inner characteristics as managers, leaders, parents, spouses and even as children. The Aspen program evoked a human element to leadership and a great deal more of emotional discovery. We spoke about the ‘sadhu’s’ in our lives – the people we tend to forget whilst climbing up the corporate ladder. Those were powerful sessions.
I was fortunate to make the best of friends whom I learnt so much from, one of them being Anousheh Ansari – the first female astronaut and private space explorer. Anousheh is an engineer and businesswoman and she always knew that she wanted to travel in space. She made sure she turned her dream into a reality. Anousheh is an incredibly inspiring person to us all.
There are some fascinating success stories that have come out of Aspen over the years, such as the eye doctor who worked on manufacturing affordable eyeglasses for people in poverty-stricken countries. Post Aspen, this Fellow left his job as a doctor to continue growing this business and help thousands of people around the world.
We came back from the program having bonded – our minds buzzing with ideas. We were all incredibly motivated to do the best we can for the countries that we live and work in.
I’m now working on the first part of my project and cannot wait to share the idea with the other Fellows at the next meet up which will be early next year.