Educational Change Abroad From an Expat's Point of View.

"You can be a leader anywhere, any time and in any situation. When the need arises, your skills will emerge."

These were the wise words of Mebkouta Bouziane, the Head of the English Department at Al Moosa College of Health Sciences in Al Ahsa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A French citizen with roots in Algeria and the UK, Meb is an international woman and has been in a leadership position for around fifteen years and had plenty of insights to share with us.

How did you get into leadership?

I graduated in International Business in France and got a Masters in TEFL in the UK because I wanted to travel. I started as an ESL teacher in Saudi Arabia in 2014 and landed in a leadership position within 6 weeks. When the team leader resigned, the Dean saw some leadership qualities in me and asked me to fill the position, which I accepted. I then moved on to become Curriculum Manager and then Head of the English Department.

What do you love most about what you do?

I do something meaningful. What I like in education is to see the changes you bring to people's lives. I do something and I can see the results straight away. Many of my former students have taken up post graduate programs in the US and Canada or have been accepted in prestigious universities in Saudi Arabia, which is beautiful to see.

What does it take to be a good leader?

From personal experience, it's something you are born with. You also have to be a good listener and be factual. If you want to be a good leader you have to take responsibility for everything, the good and the bad. If you can make people feel secure around you, that is a key skill as a leader. I don't consider myself a manager. I hire competent people, so I don't need to manage them, they self-manage. However, I lead the team to become better, more productive and offer better quality of work.

Have you been underestimated by male colleagues?

Not in Saudi Arabia; contrary to what people think, women are well respected here. In the UK, I did once come across a misogynous colleague.

What is your vision for future leaders?

We need more human skills and empathy. Successful leaders are the ones who make a difference in people's lives.

What key takeaways can you give us?

I'm interested in people, their personalities and behavior. It's something I've been studying for 10 to 15 years, and it's opened my eyes to why we can react very differently to the same situation. There is no good and bad, just different ways of reacting, so we should pay more attention to the people around us. We need a mix of everyone. When we understand different personalities, we don't judge, and we learn how to deal with each person.

Your advice for young girls?

Understand that leadership is not power. Leadership is being at the service of others.

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