Hanane Benkhallouk Exclusive Interview – ‘Humanizing Business’


Hanane Benkhallouk was recently interviewed by RootsAndRoutesMag.com and below is the wonderful Q&A session we had with her.

Hanane Benkhallouk As Cover Story – January 2024 Edition

How could you describe your career path in few words?

Rooted in the cultural richness of Casablanca, groomed in the vibrant energy of New York City, and bloomed in the dynamic landscape of Dubai – this is my journey across three remarkable cities I am privileged to call home. With over two decades of diverse management experience spanning Fortune 500 companies, government roles, and non-profits, my international exposure has covered Europe, the United States, and the MENA region, touching upon sectors like finance, investments, retail, and franchise development.

My deep belief in the transformative power of developing individuals who, in turn, build successful businesses has significantly influenced my leadership style. This conviction was further honed during my tenure at a regional government led organization in Dubai,, where I led innovation and entrepreneurship programs across the Arab World.

In 2014, I took a bold step and transitioned to full-time entrepreneurship by establishing Sustain Leadership Consultancy. As a passionate advocate for transformational leadership, gender balance, and social innovation, I actively contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. My commitment extends to serving on advisory boards of SMEs and NGOs.

My latest venture, Tawazoun, stands as the Middle East’s pioneering think-do tank and platform. It is dedicated to fostering balance in individuals, workplaces, societies, and the planet, approaching sustainability with a holistic perspective and delivering measurable results.

These career transitions were not mere changes in job titles or workplaces; they represented profound shifts in my professional approach and life philosophy. Each move was a courageous step out of my comfort zone, a leap from the security of established roles into the thrilling and unpredictable world of entrepreneurship.

My unwavering commitment is centered around sowing the seeds of change that drive positive impact in both business and society. By engaging diverse stakeholders and aligning their interests, I empower them to stay relevant in our ever-changing world. My personal brand, HB: Humanizing Business, guides my mission as I aspire to contribute to the MEA region’s transformation towards an innovation and knowledge-based economy.

My academic journey, which includes graduating from Morocco’s leading business school ISCAE, earning my MBA in the United States, and obtaining my Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA), further complements this holistic path to personal and professional growth.

My contributions have been recognized through awards such as the 2019 Game Changer Award from the Middle East Institute of Excellence in Dubai, the 2016 Saphira Award from the Moroccan government, and in 2022, I was selected among the 50 “Golden Titans of Africa,” recognized as high achiever Africans in the UAE. As a published author with two co-authored books, my recent publication, “SEEDS of Change,” achieved number 1 bestseller status on Amazon.ae.

I’ve also shared my insights through articles published in renowned platforms such as Harvard Business Review Arabic, Forbes Middle East, and Arabian Business. In summary, my career journey is a narrative of embracing change, valuing diverse experiences, and the importance of courage in the pursuit of aspirations. It’s a story of transformation, resilience, and an unwavering pursuit of both personal and professional growth.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your life and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my life has been the pursuit of integrating a model of human-centricity in a business culture predominantly focused on hard-core profit. This challenge was compounded by the societal expectations placed on women, where the conventional definition of a fulfilled life often contrasts sharply with the path I’ve chosen for myself.

In the corporate world, advocating for a human-centric approach often meant swimming against the current of traditional profit-driven models. It required not just presenting a compelling case for the long-term benefits of such an approach but also demonstrating its practicality and effectiveness in real-world scenarios. The journey involved reshaping mindsets, influencing leadership styles, and fostering environments where people, not just profits, were valued. Overcoming this challenge meant steadfastly holding onto my values, being resilient in the face of skepticism, and continuously proving the tangible benefits of a more empathetic, people-focused approach.

Simultaneously, navigating societal expectations as a woman has been equally challenging. The stereotype of a ‘fulfilled life’ often does not align with the unconventional choices I’ve made, especially in terms of career and lifestyle. Overcoming this meant embracing my individuality, staying true to my beliefs, and leading by example. It involved breaking stereotypes, not just in the boardroom but in everyday life, showing that fulfillment is deeply personal and diverse in its expression.

In both these challenges, the key to overcoming them was a combination of resilience, authenticity, and a strong conviction in my values. It was about creating a balance – Tawazoun, as I advocate through my platform – between staying true to oneself and adapting to the external environment. By leading with example and demonstrating the success that can come from such an approach, I’ve been able to not only overcome these challenges but also inspire others to rethink their perspectives on business and personal fulfillment.

Can you share a significant aspect of your cultural heritage that has played a crucial role in shaping who you are today?

In essence, the resilience and adaptability ingrained within the Moroccan cultural mosaic have played a vital role in shaping my identity. They serve as a constant source of inspiration, driving me to foster not only professional but also personal relationships deeply rooted in a sense of community, mutual respect, understanding, and a sincere appreciation for each individual’s unique contributions. This cultural legacy of resilience, adaptability, and hospitality forms the very cornerstone of my journey, profoundly influencing how I navigate challenges and wholeheartedly embrace diverse perspectives in all facets of my life.

How do you balance work, family, and personal life?

My view on balance is about ensuring that no aspect of my life dominates the others for an extended period. It’s not about dividing time equally, but about maintaining harmony and fulfillment across my professional and personal life. I focus on what’s most important in each area, making intentional choices that align with my values and prevent any one aspect from overshadowing the rest. This approach allows me to lead a rich, fulfilling life without adhering to conventional notions of balance.

What motivates and inspires you on a daily basis?

My daily motivation is fueled by the impact of humanizing business practices and promoting inclusive leadership. Seeing the positive changes in organizations and individuals’ lives keeps me inspired. The challenge of integrating my values into diverse business cultures and the feedback from those who benefit from these approaches provide a constant source of energy and drive my mission to make a meaningful difference every day.

Can you describe a turning point in your life that helped shape who you are today?

A pivotal moment in my life was my involvement in a study that highlighted the gaps between the education system’s outcomes and the workplace’s need for 21st-century skills, alongside the imperative for sustainable development and people-centric cultures in businesses. This research not only exposed these critical discrepancies but also underscored the necessity of engaging multiple stakeholders in developing human capital aligned with sustainable practices.

Being part of this study was a profound eye-opener, reinforcing my commitment to human-centric leadership and shaping my understanding of the importance of integrating sustainable development into educational and organizational environments. It emphasized the need for collaborative efforts among various sectors to nurture individuals’ potential with skills relevant for the 21st century, guiding my professional journey towards creating environments where sustainable growth and people’s development are central focuses.

Can you share an experience where you felt a clash of cultural values and how you resolved or navigated through it?

An important experience for me was being in New York City during the 9/11 attacks, especially as a Muslim from the Arab world. Living in the US at that time, I faced fear, misunderstanding, and stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs. To address this, I engaged in open conversations to emphasize our shared humanity. This experience taught me the value of empathy and communication in overcoming cultural divides and breaking down misconceptions, strengthening my commitment to fostering understanding across different backgrounds.

Have you faced unique challenges as a diaspora individual, and how did you overcome them while maintaining a strong connection to your roots?

Throughout my journey as a diaspora individual, I’ve prioritized maintaining a strong connection to my Moroccan roots while embracing the diverse cultures of New York and Dubai. While it’s natural to face initial challenges, such as homesickness and family adjustments, I’ve always been mindful of striking a balance between these worlds.

This approach involved actively engaging with the Moroccan community, participating in cultural events, and keeping in touch with developments back home. Simultaneously, I immersed myself in the cultures of my host countries, learning from them and incorporating their positive aspects into my life.

Sharing my culture with others has been a key part of this process. By introducing Moroccan traditions, values, and perspectives in my interactions, I not only maintained a strong connection to my roots but also contributed to the cultural diversity around me. This balance of embracing both my heritage and the new cultures I encountered has enriched my personal and professional experiences.

How has your cultural background influenced your personal and professional aspirations?

My cultural background, rooted in the rich heritage of Morocco, has profoundly influenced both my personal and professional aspirations. The values of diversity, community, and resilience ingrained in Moroccan culture have shaped my approach to leadership and business.

Professionally, these values have driven me to advocate for inclusive and human-centric business practices. The Moroccan emphasis on community and collaboration has inspired me to foster environments where diverse perspectives are valued and where individuals can thrive collectively. This cultural influence is evident in my work with Sustain Leadership Consultancy and Tawazoun, where the focus is on creating balanced, inclusive, and sustainable workplaces and societies. Personally, my Moroccan heritage has instilled in me a deep appreciation for authentic connections and a balanced approach to life. It has encouraged me to pursue a path that not only seeks professional success but also contributes positively to society. This cultural grounding has been a guiding force in my journey, continually inspiring me to align my aspirations with my values and to make a meaningful impact in the world.

What is your definition of success and how do you measure it?

While achieving financial stability and progress is important, success, in my view, is a delicate balance between tangible and intangible outcomes. It’s the fusion of making a positive impact with measurable metrics, recognizing that success isn’t solely about personal achievements but also about the value I bring to others and the community.

This definition of success extends beyond self-gain to encompass the discernible effects of humanizing business practices and the transformative changes they bring to society and individuals. It’s evident in the milestones reached and the feedback received through initiatives like Sustain Leadership Consultancy and Tawazoun. It’s a genuine measure of success, demonstrating the meaningful difference made beyond my personal accomplishments.

Can you share a situation where language presented both a challenge and an opportunity in your personal or professional life?

Language, particularly Arabic, has presented both challenges and opportunities in my personal and professional life. In the aftermath of 9/11 in New York, stereotypes about the Arabic language emerged, posing hurdles in various aspects of life. However, it was precisely during this time that my command of Arabic became a competitive edge. It allowed me to facilitate business transactions, build trust with Arabic-speaking counterparts, and uncover new opportunities.

This advantage led to my headhunting from New York to Dubai.. My mother tongue not only bridged cultural gaps but also opened doors to diverse business ventures in the Middle East.

Additionally, how do you actively contribute to and give back to both your first and second homes, be it through community involvements, philanthropy, or other means?

The very work I engage in daily revolves around these principles. I actively contribute to both my first home and my second home, adopting a global and inclusive approach that encompasses education, sustainability, youth empowerment, and women’s engagement. Moreover, I serve as a casual ambassador, promoting my country as a tourism and investment destination.

In today’s digital age, expanding the reach of positive impact and connecting with diverse communities worldwide is more accessible than ever. My initiatives, such as Sustain Leadership Consultancy and Tawazoun, are dedicated to promoting human-centric business practices, sustainable development, and inclusive leadership on a global scale.

I don’t believe in the word ‘philanthropy’or charity because I consider it our collective responsibility as citizens of the world to share and care for the marginalized and the less privileged. My commitment is ingrained in the very fabric of my daily work, striving to create a more inclusive and sustainable future, not only in my adopted homes but also globally.

My commitment is ingrained in the very fabric of my daily work, striving to create a more inclusive and sustainable future, not only in my adopted homes but also globally.

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