Gifts in a crisis - with Rabia Siddique

If you’re familiar with international humanitarian, Rabia Siddique’s background then you’ll understand just how qualified she is to speak on the topic of ‘Gifts in a crisis’. If you’re not, buckle in – it’s one heck of a story.

As one of our keynote speakers at the ACE New Zealand Conference 2022, Rabia will draw on her personal story of resilience, courage, strength and forgiveness to talk about authentic leadership and stepping-up in times of adversity. She will also be leading a 90-minute masterclass on ‘Storytelling for Leaders’.

We spoke with Rabia to get a brief insight into her views on adversity and leadership, in advance of her session at our ACE New Zealand Conference.

But first, a little about her extraordinary story.

An Australian criminal and human rights lawyer, passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless, Rabia’s career has taken her around the world. In the early 2000s, she entered the British Army and rose to the rank of major. While on deployment to Iraq in 2005, Rabia was taken hostage as she negotiated the release of two fellow soldiers who had been detained by extremists.

After surviving that terrifying ordeal, Rabia received international attention when she held the British Army accountable for failing to acknowledge what had happened to her, and the role she had played in securing the release of her colleagues. Her brave action in suing the armed forces was the catalyst for change to ensure a fairer workplace for minorities serving in the British military.

Today, Rabia continues to inspire thousands of people around the world as an author, keynote speaker and ambassador for a range of not-for-profit organisations, such as the International Foundation for Non-Violence. She also continues to practice as a criminal and human rights lawyer and has won multiple awards for her human rights and community aid work around the world.

You’ve faced incredible adversity a number of times during your life. How have your experiences changed you?

Growth is probably the word I’d use to describe it – I’ve grown in ways that I didn’t know I could, and my experiences have shown me that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things when they’re faced with difficult circumstances.

I’ve also gained a real appreciation of how important it is to have clarity around my values. Knowing what I stand for has become my true north when I’m in the middle of a trying time.

Finally, I am so aware of how blessed I am when it comes to the love and support that I’m shown by those close to me.

What do you enjoy most about your work as a leadership mentor?

I love the fact that I live in a world where I can be a lawyer and also use my career and life experiences to serve new and emerging leaders.

Walking alongside those navigating their leadership journey, I try to inspire people to realise that being a good leader means embracing your own vulnerabilities. By committing to being the best version of yourself, you can lead with authenticity and create real change.

Many business leaders will be finding it hard to see any ‘silver linings’ after more than two years of pandemic-related challenges. What advice would you give them?

It’s important to acknowledge that no one has been untouched by COVID-19, although some have been more tragically affected than others. But I also believe that, as the famous Winston Churchill line goes, we should ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’.

I think that one of the greatest gifts this pandemic crisis has given us is a much stronger emphasis on humanity in leadership. Personally, I have this heightened appreciation for connectivity as well. Having been forced to work online for the last two and a half years, I think we’re all so much more aware of how easy it is to access anyone, from anywhere. You don’t need an office or a plane ticket to achieve, and I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way it was – that translates to huge opportunity for so many businesses.

The last thing I’d say is that we should all focus on intentionally stopping and making time to feel joy and appreciate beauty in the world. After all, the things that make us happy do still exist, even as Covid-19 rages on.

Register for the ACE NZ 2022 Conference to enjoy this, and a number of other, world-class presentations.