My name is Henna Inam. I am a passionate advocate of each of us as leaders sharing our personal stories. I find them so much more fun to read than bios – to understand the real person and the music they want to play in the world. I believe the world will be a better place when we each are inspired to fully express ourselves. Our workplaces will be a spaces where innovation, inspiration and inclusion become part our daily experience – spaces where we can create, self-actualize, and be fulfilled.
I’m a Philosopher
When I was six years old, I remember my grandmother saying “She’s going to be a philosopher”. Apparently, I could sit for hours looking outside the window, day-dreaming. One caveat here. This was in Pakistan in the 1970’s and there was nothing good on TV!
Somewhere on my way to a brilliant and lucrative career as a philosopher, I got lost and went to business school instead.
Or Maybe an Adventurer
But prior to business school, I had the taste of being an adventurer. My parents moved for my dad’s job from Pakistan to Tanzania. I was 11 at that time. On the RACI chart (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) describing roles in our household, my role was to be “informed”. One summer between 6th and 7th grades, I found myself learning how to speak Swahili. My sister and I went off to an International School. It wasn’t a typical pre-teen experience being in a country with no TV, but plenty of scenes of safari, no rock bands but lots of rocks to play with on the beach. It was an amazing experience of learning how to adapt and I discovered my love of languages.
Three years later (still an “I” on the RACI chart), we found ourselves moving to the Philippines. Once again I found myself in an International School, this time even more diverse. My best friends were German and Japanese, which made for great dialogue during our discussions on World War II in our World History class. The experiences here taught me to see other points of view with curiosity rather than condemnation. My mother thought I would make an excellent doctor when I grew up, but my high school biology class (the one where we dissected a frog) made it pretty clear that it would serve humanity for me not to be a doctor.
I graduated from high school in Manila and then we moved once again, this time to Thailand. Two years of learning in a local Thai college was like coasting. It was pretty easy and I learned how to speak Thai (including the words for “debit” and “credit” in Thai in Accounting Class). The gift of that experience was the richness of the Thai culture and it made me realize how much I enjoyed the discovery of new and different cultures.
Two years later we landed in the United States (in Texas to be specific). I completed my undergraduate studies from the University of Texas at Austin and then went to get my MBA in Finance at the Wharton School (it was penance for the two years of coasting in the college in Thailand).
Or Maybe an Type-A Business Leader
Like most MBA’s graduating at that time in 1990 I thought I wanted to do investment banking or consulting. I had some interesting offers, but I learned an important lesson about myself when I found myself taking a job with Procter & Gamble instead. I learned that what was far more important to me than the job or the money was who I was going to be working for, and how interesting and challenging the work would be. This lesson served me well throughout my career. I ended up taking a job with Procter & Gamble to work out of their Hong Kong office on their start-up of a new joint venture in Pakistan, eventually moving to headquarters in Cincinnati, in the U.S.
At P&G I learned about marketing on some big global brands (Charmin, Pampers, Always) and had some great teachers. It was a great foundation of learning about marketing, business, and leadership. I left P&G to join Novartis. I wanted a different learning experience and thought healthcare was a business that was going to be needed but also was going to have exciting challenges ahead. Eight assignments across four divisions, three functions, and four locations over 13 years was definitely an exciting ride. I was blessed to have some amazing sponsors and mentors in the organization who saw in me a passion to learn and to be challenged.
Or Maybe an Entrepreneur
Soon after I turned 40 (I’m blaming this on a mid-life crisis), I started to think about what I wanted to be when I grew up. In my20’s as a P&G brand assistant I thought: “I really don’t want to be worrying about the price of a 4-roll of toilet paper for a living when I’m 40”. My corporate career had been mostly about achievement and climbing the corporate ladder and now I wanted to find my own way to “make a ding in the Universe” as Steve Jobs said. So, instead of handling my midlife crisis responsibly by engaging in retail therapy, I went off to an ashram in search of myself and my personal “Ding”.
In learning how to practice mindfulness, I discovered what brought me a sense of purpose and joy was helping people to grow and experience “the AHA moment” – a new insight or paradigm shift that makes them bigger than who they thought was possible. I discovered the courage to leave my 20 year corporate career to start my company Transformational Leadership Inc. I learned what they don’t teach you in business school about being an entrepreneur. Every day continues to be full of challenges and adventures.
Or Maybe A Dreamer
Our work is such an amazing opportunity to discover ourselves, the places where we soar and the places where we fold, to discover our purpose, to bring it to life. So far what appears to be true is that I want to make my “Ding” through helping people step into their most authentic selves. In particular, I see this as a challenge for women in workplaces and have a passion to see them succeed.
Or Maybe All of the Above
In the work that I do every day and through my writing, I get to integrate all aspects of me – the philosopher, the adventurer, the business person, the entrepreneur, the dreamer. I believe true authenticity lies in integrating and aligning all parts of ourselves – the ones we like and the ones we are learning to like so we can be more at ease, fully poised, available and adaptable in a fast changing world.
How about you? I invite you to engage with me in the full discovery of who you are and the full expression of your most inspired self to make a difference that is important to you in your world.