Wrapping up on personal leadership – changes, changes…

Change takes time. But it feels darn good to look back and start to see it.

If there’s one takeaway from this quick mental journey over the past 2 years and a little over 1 year ago when I started writing about it, that would be it.

The personal challenge I chose had mostly to do about changing myself and seeing how this change impacts others (if at all) – to add happiness to the sustainability dialogue happening around me, both at work and in private circles. Reading back at this post made nearly a year ago, I’m also reminded on how no amount of read books, absorbed ideas and advice makes any personal change easy – habits, instincts and societal programming runs very, very deep, especially when “push comes to shove” in a situation and we’re supposed to apply a new pattern of speech, behavior or thought. It’s uncomfortable, perhaps a bit scary and a whole lot of confusing at times.

So, the basic question I asked a year ago, lost in thought somewhere on how to make the world better and reading Adam Smiths’ take on happiness , was “What can be added to the happiness of the man who is in health, who is out of debt, and has a clear conscience?”. This came up in nearly every conversation that raised happiness as a question – I’d respond to that, examine how it applies say to developers trying to adhere to the new building code, government entities trying to kickstart installation of solar rooftops on their buildings or district cooling companies working with building owners in an attempt to expand their networks. It’s been an interesting ride trying to tie in likes of “indoor comfort” (health), ways of including the private sector to finance and manage assets (debt) and making things fair for all included (clear conscience) – but it is definitely both possible and makes people listen, since it’s not the same old boring arguments.

Wait, why did I get into this again? Well, Since it’s inception at the World Government Summit held in Dubai in 2016 (oh and another one is ongoing right as I type this out, wondering what interesting ideas are cooking and will come out of this one!), happiness has traveled from being a novelty, to being taken as a bit of an eccentricity to being fully adopted in multiple government initiatives, with developed measurement systems, roadmaps and less obvious offshoots such as customer-centric approach to citizens. See here for example here and here.

Moving closer to the present, about 7 months ago another piece of research and thinking on happiness framed a plan which I have since been pursuing. Looking back, seems all steps from that one have been successfully activated, in one form or another.

Happiness, behavior and sustainability, as ideas and concepts, now appear prominently in the ongoing update of the Dubai Demand Side Management Strategy that I’m managing. Throw it in Google – impact, at least for Dubai is major. Google won’t show you who else has started implementing the exact same programs in the past 5 years… and who will continue to do so after we publish the update.

Nearly nobody around me speaks of THINGS anymore – discussions about real estate and cars gave ways to discussions about experiences, relationships and diplomatic handling of government affairs. Seeking a win-win and engaging our partners has been and still is done in a consultative manner – better then ever, fueled by ideas gathered while diving into the personal leadership opportunity.

The biggest change might be ones to myself.

Things often go sideways with people in many unexpected ways. It’s simply not sustainable to be angry. It’s also not sustainable to put up with things that are wrong. It MAY be sustainable to calmly and openly discuss issues and try to find a way out – since starting to try this, it seems nobody declines to actually work on a solution, regardless of barriers. So, patience goes a long way (more then a complex conclusion for someone who grew up in Eastern Europe where patience is a very rare find :)).

Not sure I’d do anything differently there – no journey is perfect, often (hmmm, always?!) it’s a very convoluted line running from point A to point B, to the point where point B becomes irrelevant and we suddenly clearly see that point C somewhere along the way is exactly where we need to be, right?

Now that’s a change right there… if there’s enough patience to feel it. And then come the feelings of — happiness.

5 thoughts on “Wrapping up on personal leadership – changes, changes…

  1. Ah Luka – there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the last two years and that’s your ability to write a great blog !

    I’ve really enjoyed reading how you’ve incorporated happiness into the business side of your life and perhaps not appreciating how big a challenge that has been for you – so your ability to generate change is no small effort. A perspective for you to consider is that as change comes to Dubai has it permeated down into the societal aspects (i.e. your work colleagues may be happier but what about their spouses / family) ? They may be talking about experiences rather than things (which is a great start) but how do we get the conversation to be inclusive of all persons within the community rather than predominantly one sex (and hence bring happiness to all) ?

    I support the idea of measuring happiness but how do we get it being reported in the mainstream metrics rather than something that is reported on ‘World Happiness Day’ ? It’s not yet seen in the financial markets as holding parity with GDP etc and I do see this as a challenge to gain equivalency in metric terms for the conversation to be inclusive of it. Perhaps with increasing mental health issues for younger people this may be where it can gain some traction ?

    There’s a great song that I hope they are playing in Dubai at the moment….”don’t worry be happy”…and if they are playing it I’ll know you played a part in bringing about the positive change 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good questions, thanks! Indeed, family here comes first, to the point it’s sometimes almost irritating how meetings get cancelled or postponed due to a “family emergency”, but nobody gets angry about it, ever 🙂 And I agree, inclusion is a challenge in this part of the world, which is why equality has also been quite high on both the agenda and the speeches of the UAE Prime Minister (who is also the Ruler of Dubai), and now we have ladies in charge at many levels – for example, Smart Dubai, key government entity for the digital future of Dubai, is run by Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr.

      As for happiness vs GDP… the more I think about it the more I believe that it’s like trying to bring together two magnets with opposite polarities. Ultimately the two will probably have to co-exist, and for a good reason – it’s hard to tell a country like Bolivia to be happy when the country is poor, on the other hand G8 countries look at GDP because they seemingly don’t know what else to look at (btw, Bhutan largely lives on foreign aid, so kinda easy to be happy there haha…). Good job for us, if we can find someone to pay us to work on this!

      And I now wonder how that Bobby Darin song would sound done in Arabic or Indian style (the two heard most in taxis here)… 🙂


  2. Luka, I think we all learned a lot from our personal leadership challenges. Change is an unavoidable part of life. Just like enterprises, humans cannot remain the same for long. Whether we are prepared or not change is going to transpire. I have come to realize that change is difficult especially when attempting to change personal attributes such as your style of leadership. Recently I have undergone significant challenges as I attempt to move away from a specific leadership style and more toward the application of a situational style. Previously I found myself applying a single type of leadership in every circumstance even in settings, which demand the application of other styles such as democratic, autocratic or transactional leadership. At times, this process has been uncomfortable. I can totally relate to your comments about situations being “uncomfortable, perhaps a bit scary and a whole lot of confusing at times”. I have found the best way to combat such feelings is to keep pushing and consistently stand up against challenges by capitalizing on every opportunity possible to personally hone our skills as leaders.


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