Becoming a humanitarian leader was not necessarily part of Anas Allabani’s career plan. Before crisis hit his home in Syria, he’d studied computer engineering and held a successful career in project management and sales. By 2012, the conflict had erupted into civil war, and Anas was forced to flee his home city of Aleppo.
“I was always looking to my country and to the people, and how people are suffering, and the situation inside Syria, the war inside Syria, the airstrikes, a lot of internally displaced people, lots of refugees. So, this was my motivation. And thanks to that, I really started this [humanitarian] work as a profession and as a career in my life.”
As a Syrian national, Anas had an unrivalled advantage over international humanitarian actors. “It was a complex war zone … I understand the language. I understand the geographical areas. I understand the culture. Localisation and national staff are a very important part of the success of the humanitarian response.”
Anas was the Deputy Program Manager at Relief International when he decided to take the next step in his leadership journey and enrol in the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership. He says it was transformative.
There is a good team behind the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership who are thinking how to structure the course.” Anas admits that “working in a humanitarian sector is not traditional work … Leadership is really very important because you are facing unusual circumstances.
“The coaching was very, very important … this coach is only focusing on me and looking at my behaviour, and really give me valuable feedback about myself … I understood myself better. I was able to see my weaknesses and work on them, and see my strengths and also build on them.”
Today, Anas believes that learning to turn his focus to people, communities and partners helped him become a better humanitarian and a better leader.
“Understanding people, building teams, and being a good team player were a very good result of this course … If you are only talking about tasks and priorities and planning, you will lose the trust and you will lose some of the team members, or you will lose some of your partners … understanding people is important now for me. It was not that important before.”