What it means to be brave leaders - Dubai Braver Conference 2018

Be brave

"If your dreams do not scare you, you are not dreaming big enough" - Omar Nour

Many people, companies and industries over the world are grappling with the enormity of transformation and disruption. To re-center our perspectives, and ourselves, some of the brightest and most talented marketing minds in the UAE and MENA gathered, along with other great minds simultaneously in other corners of the world including London, New York and Singapore, to focus on what it means to be #braveleaders, from those that are brave.

A rallying call and starting point to the day came from our Dubai based Chairman, Khalid Ismail:

"I am human.
I am vulnerable. 
Fear is a choice.
I chose the uncomfortable conversations.
Together we can be brave"

To reaffirm this message, a harrowing, humbling and nail biting story was given from our keynote Omar Nour, a professional Triathlon athlete who attempted to cross the Atlantic to set a new world record with his rowing partner, they had less than 40 days to row the distance.

He put us front and center with the clarity on human bravery. He delivered so many inspirational moments:

"Be comfortable with being uncomfortable 
Stay focused on the things you can control".

"In adversity, figure out a way to make it a little bit better, a little bit better", he chanted to himself as he spent 8 hours trying to pump flood waters out of his overturned boat when his life raft only inflated 10% and wondering if any help would come. 

We all look forward to the cinematic release of Beyond the raging sea, that documents this epic story and parallels in the lives of so many refugees who attempt to bravely cross treacherous waters with only the clothes on their backs and hope in their hearts for something better than what they leave behind. 

The day continues on from this high discussing:

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast, 
It eats operational excellence for lunch,
And everything else for dinner".

Sanaa Bougazzoul L’Oreal, Ari Kesisoglu Facebook and Sonia Gokhale Venturesouq shared their company culture challenges and wins to navigate today’s business landscape. From integrity, respect and courage there was mutual consensus that teams are the new heroes, and their emotional wellbeing, highlighting that even the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team has a no jerks policy.

From Omar’s individual bravery to brave company cultures, we moved onto country level bravery and teams and talent from the Special Olympics took us on the journey through the UAE bid and commitments towards inclusivity, and support for people who are differently abled and spectacularly gifted and talented, including brave journey’s to gold medals. With the Special Olympics just around the corner in January 2019 in Abu Dhabi, there were many reasons to be inspired beyond our day jobs to believe in being good, doing good, and purposely and bravely making an impact for good.

Remie Abdo shared a brave brand story as she walked us through the breakneck speed at which Nissan took the brave decision to starting communicating and championing the Saudi decree for women driving, publishing 2018 GRL within 2 hours of breaking news and continuing to champion “shedrives for women in Saudi. 

With so many of us working on brands grappling every day with the tradeoffs of short term vs long term equity building, parallels were made with 2 inspirational stories of individuals who went long. Essa Al Ansari, a local UAE national dedicate nearly 5 years to reverse pre-diabetes and lose 83kg as a young 21 year old.

DJ Van, a Moroccan native, made the critical choice to walk away from local stardom to break into international markets. With his Maghreb dialect underground sound and at a cost of many years of sacrifice and trade-offs – he found his way, reminding us once again that focus on a north star in the long game can deliver more exponentially if you can commit to your path through adversity.

We rounded the day off with Mona Ataya - CEO & founder Mumzworld.com, who launched the ecommerce site on the foundations of being as a disgruntled customer and mother of three – she squeezed business plan writing in between naps of her twins and sometimes while huddled in the bathroom, the only place for concentration. She reaffirmed accountability and the control of decisions you make is the winning formula, along with her mantra "if you haven't created positive impact you should be ashamed to die".

With so many anecdotes, quips, quotes, while the words may fade, the sentiment on how it made us feel to live bravery in other peoples shoes will linger longer. And, as we all go back to the day job, this day of bravery should be a beacon of forethought to help #braveleaders tighten up on thinking on what matters, what is difficult, what can they impact and to definitely not give up.  

From the UAE Special Olympics Committee, I leave you with their commitment: If I don't win, let me attempt to be brave.

The Special Olympics committee will be seeking 20,000 volunteers, click here for more information to support. For volunteer opportunities email Ameera Al Muharrami, Director of Volunteers. For professional opportunities, email Laura directly.

Written by Laura Chaibi
Twitter @Laura Chaibi