My heart leapt with joy when Oprah Winfrey shouted on stage at the Golden Globes that “a new day is on the Horizon!” Today, her words ring truer than ever. At the present moment, the world is in a state of transition. Feminism is only one great example of this trend; transformative changes are happening everywhere – even right now, as you read these lines.
As a staunchly feminist mother of young women, how do I prepare my daughters to deal with the fast-changing world and to be leaders of change, especially for women?
Almost nobody likes change. Despite the abovementioned hurtling toward a better future, individual change in our own lives can be incredibly scary. People foresee the upheaval expected in their lives and their imagination goes dark with worry and paralysis.
As a strategic consultant, I am invited on a daily basis to intervene in corporations when executives are called upon to lead major changes. I have worked with executives who can live with change, and even manage it successfully. I have also had the privilege of working with those rare types of leaders who are bold enough to create the change themselves.
I personally tend to flourish when facing change, but that does not mean that it comes easily to me. On the contrary, I have to confront different facets of myself through the process, and I do a lot of meditation to ease my mind. This is the reason I chose my profession; it challenges me and enables me to be at the nexus of change. But I know that most people are not as comfortable being face to face, daily, with painful change.
Recently, one of my clients said that he would easily make a needed transition if only he had a crystal ball that could clearly show him the future. In cases like these, my job is to formulate a clear vision of a desired future based on data, research, and analysis. This data often acts as the “training wheels” of change, helping executives navigate the unknown.
I have become fascinated with the question of what differentiates people who initiate and bask in change, and those who avoid it.
One possible theory I have developed over my years of consulting: Change leaders are people who have experienced, throughout their personal life, major changes or experiences that are considered “off the beaten track.” Oprah Winfrey is a very good example of that.
Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of young women, all in their 20s, who were participating in a women’s leadership track during the course of their Masa Israel Journey program. Masa, as the leading conduit for immersive international experiences in the Jewish state for young adults, convened women from different corners of the world, with each of them having lived in Israel for five months or more.
I was asked to share with these young women how I have found success in the business world, and I obviously spoke about dealing with change. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that none of the Millennials I addressed seemed to expect stability in their lives. They were fully aware of the challenges they would face in their careers. More importantly, their personal values echoed in the room, acting as strong compasses that guided them through various ethical dilemmas I raised.
Their experience with Masa – in a different place, away from their usual routine, a place in which young people are respected as decision makers – seemed to open them up to the discomfort they needed to grow. Their time in Israel is providing them with the invaluable fertile ground to experience, envision, and enact the change that they want to be in their respective worlds.
Researchers have shown how reflecting on personal values helps us rise above the immediate threat of change. In this moment, we realize that our personal identity can’t be compromised by one challenging situation. Reminding ourselves of times when we have overcome personal trials and times of discomfort – as individuals, or, perhaps, as part of a group we identify with – creates a powerful buffer against whatever challenges we face.
This is the type of person – with a strong center and a flexible range of movement – who employers want to hire and keep. They are natural leaders.
If I want my daughters to be among the “bringers of the horizon,” the best thing that I can do is encourage them to go places out of their reach, out of my reach, no matter how uncomfortable. They must have the opportunity to stretch their wings.
Michal Engelberg is the founder of Engelberg Strategic Consulting, a Tel Aviv-based firm on a mission to help executives and entrepreneurs at pivotal junctions to evaluate their companies and lead their teams and products through change processes to success.