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on a positive impact

Resilience changed my life, One Young World changed my leadership

ByDanielle Ogêda

“How many of you have ever felt stress or anxiety at work? Please raise your hand and look around. How many of you have felt that stress or anxiety has caused you physical, mental or emotional harm? Please raise your hand and look around again. How many of you have felt this and didn't know what to do, who to talk to about it, or how to ask for help?” - Hani Abouhalka, Company Group Chairman of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

When I heard these words during Hani’s speech a few weeks ago at the 2019 One Young World Summit, my answers quickly came to mind: “Yes, I have.”

As I listened to Hani, I recalled how one year ago I had almost given up on my career, I had almost given up on myself. So, I knew all too well the full meaning of the words Hani shared. I knew that anxiety and depression got me to a point where there seemed to be no way out, the more I gave in to work, the more I felt under pressure and felt I owed something endless to myself.

What I couldn’t imagine a year ago, was that so many other people were experiencing similar feelings. I was amazed to see nearly 2,000 other young people at the Summit raise their hands just as fast as I did in response to Hani’s questions! I realized how much stronger I felt seeing that I was not alone in navigating the demands of work and life on my mental health. I heard similar stories of struggle, perseverance, and strength from incredible speakers throughout the Summit including Yeonmi ParkGeumHyok KimDalia YousifWaad Al KateabAhmad Nawaz who each had their human rights and lives threatened in pursuit of the change they wanted to create in the world. This showed me that we each possess the force – especially when combined with a strong support network – to overcome extreme challenges and achieve remarkable results.

How is this possible? I discovered during the #OYW2019 Summit that my resilience is what saved me and helped me get where I am today! When I thought about giving up my career, when I faced major challenges with my mental health, I thankfully had the strength to ask my leaders for help and found the tools that allowed me to recover and adapt, two fundamental steps towards building my resilience. Then, one year later I arrived at One Young World as part of the J&J delegation along with 77 other young employees from the company as well as amazing Scholars from the front lines of health care.

At the Summit, J&J brought to life the theme of #ResiliencyForChange. This message encouraged us to recognize that a leader’s ability to adapt, recover, and grow in the face of adversity is what makes them resilient. As I had just gone through the adapting and recovery phases myself, this was a gift and huge opportunity to keep growing and recognize my purpose as a leader. During our pre-Summit J&J briefing, Annet Eijkelkamp, Director in EMEA for Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact, shared a thought that profoundly and deeply impressed me: “Leaders are Not Born – They are Created!” It made me realize that during the following days I would develop a new understanding of what it means to be a leader.

I grew up in the 1990s and began my career in a corporate environment 10 years ago. It seems like a short time ago, but the world has undergone a lot of changes since then, including how we define leadership. For me, a successful leader looked like someone who was extremely busy, without time for anything outsides of work, and seemingly always on the brink of a crisis. 

What I recognized at One Young World was that being a leader has far greater and more powerful meaning than how busy you are. Being a leader is actually about owning the responsibility to take care of myself first and to be connected with who I am as well as the needs of others in order to deliver the best that I have to offer and create the changes the world needs. Even though these changes seem small, I know this approach to leadership has the ability to transform the lives of others just as it has mine.

During the many speeches throughout the Summit by CEOs and leaders of major companies such as Leena Nair, CHRO of UnileverJuergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UKVas Narasimhan, CEO of NovartisLaxman Narasimhan, CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, what resonated the most for was not their spectacular resumes and business results, but their personal stories of inclusion, innovation and resilienceWhat inspired me was their purpose and how they are using their voices and leadership to empower their teams and communities towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


On the final day of the Summit, the J&J booth hosted the grand knockdown of a domino installation. As the dominos knocked from one into the other, it captured how interconnected we all are and the domino effect of change we can have around the world when we build our own resilience and then pass it on to others. I now realize how interconnected we are and how my actions impact the people around me in a new light. If I am mindful to give myself the space to adaptrecover, and grow, I will build my own resilience and I will be better prepared to take care of others for the long term.

At One Young World, I reinforced my commitment to be part of something much bigger than me, which is to share J&J’s Purpose to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity. Now as a One Young World Ambassador, I feel even more responsibility to lead the change to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goals 3, 5 and 17 which J&J has a commitment to. One of the ways I plan to do this is to continue to volunteering with the Mental Health Diplomats, an Employees Resources Groups (ERGs) at J&J that is focused on building awareness around mental health and encouraging all employees to use the tools available through the company to balance their mental and physical well-being. I am also committed to evolving my leadership style. I left the Summit with a renewed understanding of the leader I want to be to myself and others:

I will be a leader that believes in the importance of building my own resilience and the resilience of those around me by prioritizing physical and mental well-being, and creating the space for us to adapt, recover, and grow in the face of adversity!

Will you join me in this commitment so we can create a domino effect of change for a more resilient world?