5 things I learned about leadership from Malala Yousafzai

  • Posted on November 9, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Avanade Malala Changemakers

Born on different sides of the world and a generation apart, there are many differences between Malala and me. But having sat down with her for an hour recently during the Avanade Changemakers series, I was struck by how many things we have in common: the obvious passion that education creates the best foundation for any career and life in general, the challenges of balancing a full-on set of work commitments while also being a great friend/wife/daughter and, on a lighter note, a total love of the TV program “Succession.” For me, Malala is the epitome of a changemaker – striving every day to make progress in ensuring girls around the world have the right to education.

In my recent conversation with her on the subject of how she drives change, what motivates her and what inspiration we can all take from her experience, here’s what I learned:

  1. Connecting individual purpose to change. Remarkably Malala believes she is fortunate to have found clear and singular purpose in her life so early on. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on her life for simply daring to go to school at the age of 15 gave her clear motivation. Her life’s work is now to ensure that no one else should ever be in that position. The event gave her 100% focus on doing what matters and helped her find and build resilience. In her words, “who else in the world is in a better position to champion the rights for girls to be educated than her.”

  2. Have big goals but also celebrate the small things. Malala has a lofty goal to ensure that the over 130 million girls who are currently not accessing education are able to in the future. It's something we can relate to with our Avanade STEM Scholarship program. She believes in setting ambitious, aspirational goals and tackling the big issues and blockers that will enable significant change to happen. But she also talked about addressing the small things, celebrating small wins and finding momentum from the effect of many small things changing in succession.

  3. Technology is a significant enabler of change but don’t pigeonhole it. Technology has enabled children all over the world to access education in new ways, particularly through the pandemic. However, technology alone doesn’t solve the problem of ensuring all children have access to education, particularly those that for a number of reasons may not have access to connectivity or devices. Malala asks for the brilliant minds that work with technology to think creatively to ensure that no one gets left behind.

  4. There is huge power in amplifying all voices. Malala works extensively around the world with not-for-profits, governments, lobbyists, religious groups, corporates and individuals to look at the challenge of educating girls from many different perspectives. She believes passionately in the power of diversity of opinion, perspective and experience in helping understand, define and solve problems. Whether that’s age, race, gender, experience, region, language or other lenses, she focuses on hearing and then amplifying those voices in her work. It’s why we put strong focus on inclusion and diversity at Avanade.

  5. Don’t forget your own well-being. With such an ambitious purpose, a perpetual to-do list and the Malala Fund to run, we discussed how she switches off and takes time for herself. Malala prioritises sleep, eating well, spending time with her new husband and, like many of us, finds rest in binge watching box sets. Turns out, we are both really looking forward to the final series of “Succession” being released.

If you haven’t done so already, watch our full conversation here to see what you can learn about leadership, the importance of diversity in innovation and doing what matters. Malala is one of the most inspiring people I’ve had the opportunity to talk to, and I have every confidence that she will have significant impact on the future lives of girls all around the world.

Learn more about Changemakers and embracing continual change from our Avanade Advisory team.

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