With apologies, it’s been awhile—I’ve been to the U.A.E. right after catching my breath after that trip Brazil and Colombia. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, seen through this newcomer’s eyes, are more George Jetson than 2017. Their buildings dazzle and blind when the sun hits their mirrored skins; their highways cut through the city on stilts’ the sea shimmers turquoise and emerald, and the desert stretches to the horizon.

This is our future.

Dubai+Window
I think this is called Dubai’s window but it could well be Dubai’s picture frame!

Dubai people are as glamorous as their city, transfers from everywhere, seeking adventure at work. It’s a place to drink, dance, have fun, shop. It’s also a place for serious business.

I met Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates. I met English, French, American, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Canadian, and African too. I should have known that people this diverse would embrace Centered Leadership. I should not have worried.

Still I worry. For years, friends have admonished me not to worry. Frankly, people can talk all day. That just doesn’t work for me. I have to discover things for myself. I’m guessing that you’re similar. I know not to worry, but new experiences catapult me out of my Comfort Zone. Like the man shot out of the cannon, I zoom to my Learning Zone’s outer edge, perilously close to my Terror Zone. It’s natural to worry a little bit.

I was scheduled to introduce Centered Leadership in an iMax Theater in the City Mall, owned by one of Dubai’s leading companies. They started a cutting-edge leadership training institute and adopted Centered Leadership to share with its management. The CEO planned to attend my talk. So did a few hundred executives, some already trained. No pressure? I was on a stage, standing in front of the largest PowerPoint screen (iMax size) I’d ever used.

Joanna+with+movie+theater+sign+of+Joanna
How peculiar and at the same time, exciting, to be standing at a movie theater screen announcing my session instead of the latest movie!

Two weeks before, I had stood on stage to meet 2,500 executives in Brazil. That was a new experience, too, but it had not blunted what I felt now. I’ve been to Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and yet this experience felt foreign. Well beneath the water line of my iceberg, I believed that worrying would improve my delivery. Worrying meant I was focused on my audience and what I most wanted for them. It also increased my sensitivity to mess ups. No matter that it also threatened joy, playfulness, and spontaneity. In reality, excessive worrying would strip me of distinctiveness. It’s a fine balance.

The mic worked and then it didn’t. On, off, on, off. Not an auspicious start. Through all my worries, I had not worried about the mic! That thought made me laugh out loud. I asked for a handheld and carried on with all the joy and fun pent up inside. The fine people of Dubai then embraced Centered Leadership and me.

So in Abu Dhabi, when the cable connecting the pc with my slides acted up, I was ready. A diverse group, ranging from young Arab students to senior ministry officials and wealthy entrepreneurs watched the blinking screen with anticipation. As my slides appeared and disappeared as ghosts, I let them go. I didn’t need the slides behind me. I needed the audience in front of me.

It’s always a surprise and a revelation that Centered Leadership feels at home in places I had never visited. Men and women in long robes, speaking Arabic, integrated the concepts of Centered Leadership through eager conversation. As they shared personal stories, they loosened up and raised their voices—just as I had witnessed in China, and France, and Sweden, and elsewhere. Why does that happen almost every time? Worth a think.

Here’s what I’ve got so far: when you believe something deeply, others are more likely to follow; when we laugh, we’re more open to trying new things; when you set the rules, others go along. I didn’t conform or try to fit in. Instead, I imposed a different approach. People were open and willing. They made it happen.

UAE+Millennials
A few Millennials wanted to pose for a photo. How wonderful to connect!

If you’ve participated in one of these programs, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Meanwhile, here’s to the remarkable Millennials I met in Dubai and Abu Dhabi! I feel welcomed in your glittering country, thanks to you.

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