Nadine El Habbal: Women in Leadership

Women are considered to play a crucial role in driving change, facilitating decision-making and ultimately leading to success. Still, women remain under-represented in the world of business and communities. The Sloan programme is designed to fill these societal gaps, shape and enrich our women leaders with valuable expertise to enable them to make the next move and transform their leadership visions and abilities. Nadine El Habbal, our Sloan 2022 alumnae, shares her journey within the programme and how this reshaped her perspective as well as some piece of advice for any future women supporters who are seeking the right motivation to move forward.

Can you tell us a bit about your background before you joined the Sloan programme and which gaps you were hoping to fill? Who inspired you to be a leader and why?

Following career debuts in the audit and the insurance supervisory work, I took the leading role as supervisor of the insurance sector in Lebanon for five good years. I decided subsequently to make a major shift and embarked on an entrepreneurship adventure; I established Further Edge, a cloud-based platform that uses big-data and modern technologies. The idea is born from my combined passion for technology and efficient predictive analytics.

Conscious of the challenges I faced as a female leader in my previous and current roles, I wanted to take my career to other levels. My current role as entrepreneur requires an understanding of a wide spectrum of considerations relating to the dynamic and evolving nature of the business environment driven by the rapid pace of technology advancements. Furthermore, I wanted to enhance my grasp of the leadership concept, which has significantly evolved in the previous decades. This has its own importance and relevance for female leaders; I strongly believe that women have their own personality facets that give a special twist to their leadership style, and the way they build companies and do business. Hence my decision to join the Sloan programme at LBS.

Within your cohort, which new industries or perspectives were you exposed to that helped shape your experience and give you the confidence you have today?

I cannot remember a single course or elective that did not bring new thoughts and teachings; I can even assert that discussing and analysing topics and considerations that I was familiar with was so enriching. Nevertheless, the Strategy and the Leadership courses had a profound impact on my thinking and influenced many choices I took during and after the programme. The GE weeks were peak milestones in the programme, and unveiled unprecedented experiences with coaches, speakers, and colleagues coming from other programmes. Case studies related to technology were heart-warming as I considered them while thinking about my own firm.

I was thoroughly attracted by the leadership courses, as I always had a strong confidence in my emotional intelligence, and ability to read and understand the people I meet. No wonder that the dynamics of the teamwork brought about by the diversity of cultures and the depths of backgrounds that characterised my cohort, was an outstanding learning experience.

What benefits have you received to enhance your leadership experience while studying at LBS?

Plunging into a multi-cultural experience along the academic and research aspects of the Sloan programme, is in my opinion what gave a distinctive flavour in transforming my own leadership perspectives. My prior leadership role was challenging as I had to navigate through a notoriously difficult system, which has its own history. However, my present role requires a largely versatile set of skills to allow me to deal with clients, providers, and teammates coming from various horizons and cultures, and with different styles and expectations.

Understanding that the business environment is now so global, is an experience offered in a unique way by the programme. I will always remember the time spent at LBS with the beautiful memories of my colleagues, many of whom became lifetime friends.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership? Do you think the Sloan programme can help women overcome these challenges?

Have you ever felt the imposter syndrome, and if so, how did you navigate your way through?

I always thought that the main challenge for female leadership is their natural desire to have family and children; this is a positive and sweet challenge. Nevertheless, raising children can be a daunting task: they require adequate and affectionate care and attention, as well as quality time that only a mother can deliver. The implications for the career can be positive as it requires a carefully organised setup and strong time-management abilities. I also believe that women have a better ability of saying “No” when it matters, which is so necessary to keep a good balance between personal life and work matters.

Incidents when a kid is ill and requires healthcare, or when school attendance is needed can easily disrupt your schedule and test your time management determination. On the very positive side, my kids were exposed to LBS and to education at an experienced age. The importance of seeking to join a renowned university became part of their young and determined ambitions. Seeing their mother giving time and energy to step-up her career can be nothing but a great example that they will inspire them when they will embark on their own journey and later on in their personal and professional journeys.

How have you transformed as a female leader after completing the programme?

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders and what should one really consider before pursuing going back to school?

It has now been one and a half years since I completed the Sloan programme. I feel increasingly confirmed in my goals and determined to pursue my dreams. I was elected as NED of an insurance company and embarked on a challenging transformation program from the ground-up. I strongly believe that my initial and quick success is largely driven by the understanding of leadership concepts acquired at LBS, which become in a certain way part of myself and engraved in my personal style.

I also changed fundamentally the business model of my own company, taking advantage of new horizons; thinking globally while pushing for local tactical actions and decisions was a key theme that resulted in positive outcome and promising potential.

I always thought that there are many positive examples of female leadership since the dawn of humanity. I feel that our presence is needed more than ever in current times, despite possible social or equality challenges: these can be overcome with the determination and the judicious choice of the supporting team, an area in which we are particularly strong.

If you wish to hear more compelling stories like Nadine’s, join us online on the 18th July for the ‘Women in Senior Leadership: Finding a healthy work-life balance’ webinar.

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