Empowering Leadership: Ghenwa Habbal’s Journey of Resilience, Authenticity, and Breaking Barriers

Ghenwa, a Global HR, Talent Management, Workplace, DEI, and Culture enthusiast, has not only carved a niche for herself in the professional landscape but has become the lighthouse for inspiration and resilience. Her journey is nothing short of extraordinary, marked by a diverse career trajectory and a commitment to fostering positive change in the corporate world. We, at EliteX, are proud to have Ghenwa Habbal in our special edition: Breaking Barriers: Women Leaders of the 21st Century.

Ghenwa’s professional journey spans two decades, during which she has applied human-centered HR strategies to advance both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies in the ever-evolving VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environments. Armed with an MSc in Business Psychology with coaching, she is also a certified Brain-Based, CBT, and Resilience Coach, showcasing her dedication to enhancing individual and organizational well-being.

As a Community Linked Top-Voice in 2023, Ghenwa serves as well as an Exclusive Chair for the UAE Intercultural Dialogue Wing at G100, contributing significantly to cross-cultural understanding and collaboration. Her role as a jury member and judge at multiple international organizations reflects her expertise and influence in the global arena. Ghenwa’s commitment to empowering others is further demonstrated through her position as a co-author of the book “Shaken Stirred but Deterred.”

“Navigate critics with resilience, emotional intelligence, and a global open mindset. Criticism is an opportunity for growth. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your emotions while empathizing with others. Active listening and constructive dialogue resolve conflicts, fostering open communication.” – Ghenwa Habbal

In her mission to “Inspire to Aspire,” Ghenwa has become a trusted LinkedIn voice and an influential figure, advocating for Women in Leadership while navigating the challenges of a VUCA world. She is a regular feature at HR summits and round tables, addressing topics such as Talent Management, Inclusive Cultures, Resilience, and Transformative Workplaces. Her articles and interviews, featured in HR Observer and NEXUS, along with recorded podcasts on Spotify, amplify her impact and reach. Ghenwa’s journey began at the age of 15 in the travel and tourism industry, followed by experiences in the F&B industry and the Environmental Services sector. Her passion for taking on new risks, opening horizons, and navigating new ventures led her to work with leaders to drive transformative solutions in the face of daily challenges.

Motivated by her belief that people are the fuel powering the engine to excellence and profitability, Ghenwa’s leadership philosophy is rooted in resilience. Her decision to embark on a global assignment in 2015 shaped her perspective, eventually leading her to discover her passion for coaching. Today, she helps leaders draw and navigate their paths, contributing to their personal and professional growth. Ghenwa’s extensive experience and education have positioned her as a highly skilled and sought-after professional leader and coach. Adopting a drone view, she offers coaching consultancy services on conflict management, communication, resilience, and beyond maintaining a small tight cohort of Senior-level clients for personalized 1:1 coaching.

“Showing up in your own skin is key for your success,” emphasizes Ghenwa, reflecting on the challenges she faced as a woman leader. Despite encountering those who resist authenticity, Ghenwa surrounds herself with a select few who accept her as she is. In the face of cultural norms and challenges, she proudly identifies as an “Alchemist” leader, challenging the status quo and inspiring others to shape their lives and the world around them. Ghenwa’s thick skin, empathy, and confidence stem from her dream and vision, solidifying her identity as a leader who is unfiltered, deliberative, and fair. Determination and perseverance have been Ghenwa’s driving forces, propelling her to carve a unique path in her leadership journey. Her commitment extends to helping others embark on their own leadership journeys. For Ghenwa, authentic leadership is paramount, a principle she embodies to inspire those around her.

Reflecting on a defining moment in her career, Ghenwa asserts that adversity is an opportunity to redefine oneself. In the absence of freedom, justice, fairness, equity, and equality, she advocates for flipping the game and changing the rules. This transformative approach has shaped Ghenwa’s leadership style as an Alchemist, rising from challenges like a phoenix. The inspiration for Ghenwa comes from a 360-degree perspective, seeing women leaders as lionesses protecting their communities, eagles empowering others to fly, and butterflies embarking on diverse journeys for joy and exposure. Her mother stands as the powerhouse, the central source of inspiration that fuels Ghenwa’s strength. Balancing professional and personal life, Ghenwa doesn’t adhere to a specific routine but recognizes the importance of pausing, breathing, and reflecting to avoid burnout. Operating in a VUCA environment, she understands the need for rejuvenation to ensure optimal performance.

To Ghenwa, great leaders transcend gender and lead from the heart. They touch lives with empathy, understanding at the core, inspiring others to aspire. From a business perspective, great leaders communicate with vulnerability, possess vision, navigate challenges with integrity, and create a culture of trust away from judgment.

In promoting diversity and inclusion, Ghenwa underscores the significance of leadership commitment, setting the stage for organizational inclusivity. Diverse hiring practices, unbiased processes, and diverse hiring panels play a pivotal role. Training programs, mentoring, reverse mentoring, and Employee Resource Groups further contribute to building an inclusive culture. Ghenwa emphasizes the importance of regular non-biased audits to fortify the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Through her insights and actions, Ghenwa Habbal continues to break barriers and pave the way for a more inclusive and empathetic leadership landscape.

“Believe in the ‘Power in You’ and do not change who you are to please others. If change is needed, let it be your decision, your way, your style. And always remember to dress up for your success!” – Ghenwa Habbal

Handling criticism and setbacks in her leadership journey, Ghenwa acknowledges the initial difficulty. She relies on her daily mantra, “The Power in Me,” which has become a lifestyle. Navigating critics requires resilience, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution strategies, and a global open mindset. Ghenwa views criticism as an opportunity for growth, citing examples in her co-authored book, “Shaken, Stirred But Not Deterred.” Emotional intelligence, relentless resilience, active listening, and constructive dialogue are integral to resolving conflicts and maintaining open communication.

In 2023, Ghenwa celebrates a year of achievements, big and small. She takes immense pride in creating a powerful personal branding image through tested strategies, determination, and perseverance. It marks the beginning of her journey towards a dream, supported by agile strategies designed for success. For young women aspiring to leadership, Ghenwa advises believing in the “Power in You” and not changing to please others. Change should be a personal decision for self-improvement. She emphasizes the importance of dressing up for success, aligning with one’s authentic style. To stay motivated and grow as a leader, Ghenwa recommends visualizing the desired self, setting strategies, and focusing on the journey. Self-worth, well-being, and the initial motivation for the journey should be constant reminders.

Mentorship plays a crucial role in Ghenwa’s career. She advocates for coaching to develop skills, optimize performance, and achieve goals. Mentors provide knowledge and wisdom for overall career development, while sponsors actively advocate for career advancement. Finding individuals to join the journey with diverse portfolios is key to success. Post-COVID, Ghenwa believes in the transformation of work ideas. Flexible work arrangements, transparent communication aided by technology, employee-centered well-being programs, and office ergonomics contribute to a healthy work environment and work-life balance. Building boundaries between business and personal life is crucial for sustained well-being.

Looking ahead, Ghenwa envisions a future where workplaces eliminate gender biases. She hopes women won’t need to constantly explain their contributions and emphasizes the need for policies preventing glass ceilings that could lead to glass cliffs. Society must play a role in eliminating biases and supporting the growth and success of women in leadership roles, fostering an environment of equal opportunities and recognition. Men and women are two sides of the same currency, and true success lies in embracing diversity and eliminating gender-related barriers.

For Ghenwa, leadership is not confined to a specific field, company, or stage in life; it is a lifestyle defined by stoicism and resilience in the face of change and challenges. Her commitment to inspiring and aspiring is evident in every facet of her professional journey, making her a true trailblazer in the 21st century.

“Showing up in your own skin is key for your success. Despite those who may not accept you as you are, surround yourself with the few who inspire and influence. Be an ambitious rebel, an ‘Alchemist’ leader shaping your own destiny.” – Ghenwa Habbal