What’s Action For Humanity all about?
The Action For Humanity (AFH) motto is simple: humanity in the face of inhumanity. AFH is a living, breathing body whose guiding light is to help others. A key pillar of our organisation is to always be mindful of our mission, the sole focus of providing aid to those devastated by disaster and conflict.
Although at times hectic, AFH is able to mobilise, respond, and restore thanks to the amazing teamwork, commitment and focus all of our staff and volunteers have.
As CEO, first and foremost I aim to be a role model. I am committed to being reliable and trustworthy by building partner relationships, working on strategic planning, and ensuring solid reporting and update mechanisms to the board of trustees.
Why is the work you do important?
In a perfect world, there would be no need for charities. It is not difficult to see that politicians and governments are unreliable when it comes to delivering direct change.
Our work at AFH is important because we see people as one. We provide aid to all without discrimination. We believe that society can only progress and develop when care and opportunity are provided for all.
How did you get to where you are today?
There is a Hadith narrated by The Prophet Muhammad which says, ‘the best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind’. My faith guides me towards self-improvement and, in turn, uplifting others. This is how I have been able to go from being an officer to a manager, to a CEO.
You need to be surrounded by people who support you, keep you humble, and remind you to keep your beneficiaries front and centre of your work.
What are your top three values and how do they influence the way you lead?
I have been involved in humanitarianism for a long time, and so one of my foundational values is serving others. I channel this into my leadership by having a laser focus on the beneficiaries, focusing on what is best for them and not letting business affect my priorities.
Leadership which orbits ethics is another core value of mine. For me, ethics are all-encompassing. They involve achieving peace and harmony with yourself and in turn with those around you to create an environment built on trust and respect. Leadership is a position of privilege and should not be viewed as a station, but rather, as a vessel for the benefit of your team, beneficiaries and the wider community.
Teamwork is fundamental for the running of AFH. I view the organisation as a body- to be at its prime, all areas need to be nurtured. In my leadership, I aim to always communicate as a trusting and reliable colleague and friend.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt on your leadership journey?
Throughout my leadership journey, I have come to understand the importance of opening rather than closing doors. From this, I have come to understand the value of patience. I strive to be a CEO who listens, understands, and gives importance to everyone’s ideas.
There is a concept called the coaching CEO. This is where the CEO creates opportunities for their team to independently manage tasks and learn from their mistakes. Patience is key here as you must trust your team and the process.
Branching on from this, another important lesson I have learnt is to be open-minded – to new ideas, mechanisms, and talent.
What’s the most courageous leadership move you’ve made?
At AFH, one of my biggest challenges has been rebranding from Syria Relief to Action For Humanity. We wanted to expand our reach beyond Syria and have a more international presence. We’re using our experiences and expertise from Syria to provide services to other crisis-struck regions.
What leadership development do you think you and your staff need most right now?
AFH staff are committed and brilliant at what they do. They don’t hesitate to take charge, ownership, and responsibility. What I think they need most right now, is to not be afraid of bringing in new talent. There is often a fear of change and a lack of disposable time for staff to appropriately train recruits. We, as an INGO, need to recognise that in order to grow, we need to take the time to branch out.
Alongside this, management skills are a great asset and something we can all work on. I would like to see my staff dedicate their time to their colleagues, coaching, and uplifting them, whilst also keeping on top of their responsibilities.
One piece of advice you’d wished you’d received 10 years ago?
My advice to all those who wish to be CEOs is for them to understand that they are not the sole leader of the organisation. They are directly answerable to an independent board of trustees who are ultimately responsible for a charity’s governance.
Having organisation, honesty, and patience is vital to working most effectively with your trustees.
One piece of content you’d recommend
Ethics: The Heart of Leadership by Joanne B. Ciulla. My core values are reflected within the very title. I also really enjoy the work of John Adair, namely The Leadership of Muhammad. I particularly like the quote ‘effective leaders treat individuals differently but equally’ from Develop your leadership skills.
How can we support the next generation to develop into leaders of the future?
The world is changing at a fast rate. The next generation of leaders needs to understand the mistakes of the past and challenge present conventions and norms. They will push through barriers and lead with action while being guided by ethics. These ambitions may sound daunting, but the path to becoming a leader is paved with consistency and perseverance.
We can support the next generation of leaders by being role models ourselves. I am a proponent of the Servant Leadership theory which advocates for the leader to serve and be a vessel, as opposed to simply focusing on the growth of the organisation.
We must demonstrate action, integrity, and empathy for the next generation of leaders to build upon.
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