THE WOMEN BEHIND BRAVE LEADERS
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how this led to starting the Brave Leaders project?
Margareta: I have been teaching for a long time. I came to realize that people tend to say that they are doing so much when it comes to the future, whether it be for example to address pollution or equalized payment for the same job, but in reality, it was more talk than real action. It made me decide that in my last phase of my professional life, I want to give back to society. There are some real brave leaders who stand behind their values, beliefs and knowledge, whose stories should be shared. I envision the future new leaders continuing this tradition, standing up for what they know is the right thing to do.
Jessica: I come from a family of activists, academics, doctors and so I’ve always been surrounded by people that have a strong sense of social duty. I’ve therefore always felt this strong responsibility to devote my professional life to meaningful work. When I met Margareta, Brave Leaders presented itself as a unique opportunity to follow the stories and experiences of the people in our society that are making a huge difference that are devoting their lives to meaningful work. I see Brave Leaders as a way of enlarging this community of socially-minded and passionate people.
Can you explain in one sentence, what the Brave Leaders project means to you?
Margareta: It about the future, gathering courage and caring for the future
Jessica: Changemakers from all ages and all backgrounds going against the grain and relentlessly pursuing what they believe in regardless of other people telling them they will fail.
What does “Brave” mean to you?
Margareta: Someone who is going against the norms and decisions made by the board, the general opinion in society, or whoever is opposing them. Someone who has the courage to stand up and go against the tide. Bravery manifests itself as having the maturity and confidence to act on it.
Jessica: You believe in yourself and what you stand for enough that you go after what you believe in. You have the patience and drive to pursue it despite everyone else telling you that it’s impossible.
What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you today? Do you think it has kept its intended meaning?
Margareta: I tend to not use the word that much anymore because people equate it just with environmentalism. But sustainability has to do with long-term goals to sustain everything for the future. Sustainability is still important as a term because of the implications for the next generation. The decisions you make in your daily activities are what generate sustainability or not.
Jessica: What I learned about sustainability in university has now lost its intended meaning. It’s become a blanket buzzword and an extension of the environmental movement, but it’s not quite just that. I think it’s important to educate people on how sustainability applies to current day issues, and to be aware of its evolution from the UN term “sustainable development’ to today’s pursuit of sustainability.
What to you, is the biggest differentiator of today’s leadership?
Margareta: Many leaders have an ego and think of themselves and their next step in their career. THe big differentiator is the desire to serve and be part of a bigger assignment. When you as a leader have enough self-confidence to think of others before yourself.
Jessica: With today’s IT technology, anyone can start a social movement, and this access to knowledge and expertise allows for more people to take part in social projects. It empowers people because this access gives them the information that allows them to be leaders. Access to information and resources differentiates leaders today. It’s not just the elite and people in power in formal institutions that have leadership roles now; more grassroots and bottom-up initiatives can thrive.
What are your hopes for the younger generation of leaders?
Margareta: I know that millennials are very connected to their core family, but they also have a huge network. The younger generations to me demonstrate that they do not accept things the way they are and they have a unique opportunity to help and stand up for what they believe in. Millennials know they will be affected if people continue to live the way they are now.
Jessica: I’m very hopeful about the younger generations. I rarely meet millennials that are disinterested in the subject. The biggest demonstration of leadership is ignoring all the signs of potential failure and impossible feat. Impossible becomes less impossible. I hope that the younger generations of leaders stay motivated and don’t renounce on their dreams. One of my biggest inspirations is my 97 year-old grandfather who is still an optimist after being in the airforce in WWII, leading anti-Vietnam marches and going through many hardships. If he is still an optimist today than I see no reason for the younger generations to not be optimistic too.
What is your biggest goal with the Brave Leaders project? If that fails, what will you be satisfied with?
Margareta: My biggest goal is to inspire young leaders with the stories we share. I will be satisfied with the fact that we attempted to bring stories to young people that need encouragement to pursue their leadership goals.
Jessica: My biggest goal is to inspire real change so that the stories we showcase and share truly help to connect our readers with the leaders that we interview. If the Brave Leaders project takes longer to get exposure, I hope that the already existing community of leaders will become more tight-knit and grow on its own.
Margareta Barchan is an entrepreneur who has started several successful companies and foundations, always with a focus on the human side of change and an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility.
Her work and her studies have taken her around the world and given her a global perspective that she draws on every day. She is a co-founder, past president and CEO of Celemi International, a global learning design company. Her efforts to grow Celemi earned her the title of Sweden’s Business Woman of the Year. She also currently serves as the director on several corporate boards and nonprofit committees, and her work monitoring and measuring intangible assets have been widely published.
She is an affiliate professor in Sustainability at the Lorange Institute of Business in Zurich, and in Leadership & Management at Business School Lausanne. She holds an MSC from HEC Paris, and is a graduate of advanced studies in Corporate Social Responsibility from the University of Geneva, as well as from Harvard Business School and Oxford University.
Jessica Newfield is a community relations consultant and freelance writer with 7+ years of experience in nonprofit management, community development, human rights journalism, grant writing, and fundraising. She has worked with several social good startups at the incubator phase in Montreal. In the last five years, Jessica has developed a particular interest in resource management and how it affects the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. She had the opportunity to travel across Northern Chile in the summer of 2011 and learn about the land-based knowledge and heritage of the Mapuche. She worked recently as a consultant with Cree communities in Eeyou Itschee in Northern Quebec and learned about their harvesting and hunting practices, as well as the cultural and socio-economic reasons for why they oppose uranium development.
In addition, Jessica previously worked at the McGill Office of Sustainability in charge of developing a monitoring and reporting framework for benchmarking sustainability performance at McGill. She received a Faculty of Arts Internship Award.
She also previously interned in the grants department of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) where her main project was to assess funding opportunities for community-based organizations in Côte d’Ivoire through in-depth research and direct communication with funder organizations. She was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the McGill branch newspaper, Journalists for Human Rights, and continues to write for various media outlets. She also gained fundraising, advocacy, communications, and leadership skills as Co-President (2013-2014) of the McGill Chapter of STAND Canada, a responsible mining research group.She graduated from McGill University in 2014, with a major in Political Science and a double minor in International Development Studies and Hispanic Languages.
Brave Leaders Project is a new initiative undertaken with support from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. Through the research we hope to better understand why some leaders are more prepared to stand up for their values and beliefs than others.