While growing up, I was fortunate to have values around education, hard work and perseverance instilled in me by my mother. As part of our WoMen March Initiative, I would like to celebrate the personal lessons in leadership that I learned from her.

Very few people within my mother’s extended family finished high school and none of them went to university. She, however, had a passion for learning and held a lifelong belief that we can better ourselves and our situation in life through learning. Against all odds, she finished high school, went to university and graduated with a degree in Pharmacy. She was also the only woman in her class at university. Upon graduation, she opened a pharmacy in Beirut in the early 1970s and co-managed it with my dad for 39 years until she passed away five years ago.

Through her experience, she instilled in me a passion to learn and taught me invaluable lessons in leadership.

Personal Lesson in Leadership #1: Learning is a lifelong journey

  • Good leaders continuously strive to better themselves through learning.
  • Good leaders seek to learn from all people around them and all situations they encounter.
  • Good leaders stay humble in their learning, as pride could make us impervious to learning.

Personal Lesson in Leadership #2: Live Above the Line

Ownership – Accountability -Responsibility


Blame – Excuses -Denial

This second lesson is about growing a keen sense of responsibility. Whatever we do, no matter how great or small our role is, having an attitude of “the buck stops with me” always makes such a profound difference.

Whether in my work or my personal life, I naturally face difficult situations; sometimes it’s a project that I don’t like, sometimes it’s being posted in a location that is not great, often it’s having to deal with a really difficult situation. Whatever that situation is, I try to keep the following in mind:

  • This situation is temporary and would eventually go away.
  • How can I seek feedback from my colleagues and what can I learn from it? Can I enhance my negotiation skills? Can I build more resilience when dealing with difficult people? Can I become better at influencing people? Can I become better at multi-tasking? Etc
  • Whatever this situation is, am I taking fully ownership of it? Am I taking responsibility or am I dropping the ball? Am I spreading blame or does the buck stop with me?

The lessons can be endless, as long as we keep on looking for them.

By: Mounir Ariss, Partner, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East