Between the 17th and 24th of May 2014, I was fortunate to be part of an extraordinary international group of almost thirty people who participated in a unique experiential programme in Israel and Palestine, organised by a remarkable social enterprise called Leaders’ Quest, founded in 2001.
LQ leans in to the tough questions about business, society and individual leadership. They explore answers with people from all walks of life and work together across business, civil society and government to improve the quality and impact of leaders and their organisations and communities around the world. LQ’s growing global community currently connects more than 6,000 leaders.
After leaving a 25-year career in financial services in 2012 to venture into possibility, I’ve spent the last two years wandering and wondering how I might be able to make a difference with the second half of my life. Meeting generous incredible people already making a difference with their lives gave me the kind of challenge, support, and reflective space I needed to explore and discover how I might be able to do that, and start a new venture in 2014.
This Quest came at the perfect time for me because I needed to ask tough questions of myself after selfishly alienating my partner and teenage son to pursue a very different, and continually unfolding, new path. I hope it will help bring me back to them (work in progress!) whilst also allowing me to be true to two core values I’ve now realised, since leaving my old career, are foundational for me –freedom (to do meaningful work that feels aligned and helps me continue learning and growing) and impact (making a real difference for others, and for the incredible world we are privileged to inhabit).
A lovely dinner on our first night in Jerusalem included a memorable conversation with a deeply insightful American participant who gave me the gift of clarity about my “why” for this trip. I knew that I needed to experience a very challenging environment, so different from my own back in the UK. For me, thanks to my fellow “Quester”, this trip became about “expanding my container” with greater compassion, more generative conversations, deeper understanding and direct insights, to enable me to better contribute to the larger difference we can each make when we work together for a brighter future for all, guided by our shared humanity and the desire to live our lives freely and authentically, with meaning and purpose.
During the course of the week, in a richly packed programme, we met with Jewish-Israeli, Arab-Israeli and Palestinian leaders and their colleagues, all doing inspiring work to improve lives across the entire landscape. Whether in education, healthcare, infrastructure, business, not-for-profit, military, local and central government, community action, and more, these were powerful stories all-too-rarely told in mainstream media.
Although the global phenomenon of social media is still in its infancy, it is already playing a hugely important role in helping to spread awareness of stories such as these. This must significantly expand in the mainstream media, locally and internationally, to help overcome what I perceived to be a clear disconnect between Israeli and Palestinian political leadership and the people they are meant to represent. There was palpable frustration on the ground, exacerbated by what I took away as a lack of information-sharing, general transparency and learning, regarding the formal discussions and informal conversations from multiple failed political negotiations.
The people we met wanted to work with the political leadership to find pragmatic sustainable solutions together. I flew home from Tel Aviv with a sense of hope that a two-state solution will be found, whereby both states foster the conditions under which ALL their citizens have the opportunity to flourish, and in the process benefit the entire region.