Community//

Rising Star Arielle Nóbile: “Leadership is listening, inviting reflection and questioning, and allowing for flow”

Leadership is listening, inviting reflection and questioning, and allowing for flow. I recently led a meeting with my outreach team, an all-female group, several of whom are also dear friends of mine. One of these women was really struggling to understand the pace and content of the meeting and asked me to slow things down. […]


Leadership is listening, inviting reflection and questioning, and allowing for flow. I recently led a meeting with my outreach team, an all-female group, several of whom are also dear friends of mine. One of these women was really struggling to understand the pace and content of the meeting and asked me to slow things down. The truth is I’d come to that meeting a bit annoyed and resentful for having set it up the way I had in the first place. It was on a weekend and in general my weekends are sacred family time and restful, something my soul needs to be able to give 100% the rest of the week. I had to drive in bad traffic to get there and arrived just as it was supposed to start, not early as I had intended. And so even though I was grateful for them all being there and also giving up some of their weekend time, I carried that resentment and stress of my drive in to the meeting when it started. My energy was off. So this particular woman, who is a sensitive, empath like I am, was challenging me and calling me out on my own negative energy. Rather than feel judged or angry or indignant by her public questioning of basically everything we were going to be talking about in the meeting, I took it as an invitation to both slow down and help her to understand where we were going. Her questions allowed us all to articulate ourselves better and to communicate some ideas that ultimately will enhance our teamwork and the project as a whole. I find much of what I do that might be considered leading has more to do with listening and asking follow-up questions than giving orders or directions.


As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arielle Nóbile. Arielle is a documentary filmmaker, founder and CEO of Legacy Connections Films, and is the producer/director of the award-winning documentary series Belonging in the USA: Stories from our Neighbors. The first film in the trilogy, The Story of Michael D. McCarty was a 2019 official selection at the Pan African Film Festival, the largest Black film festival in the US. Arielle was named to The Independent Magazine’s List of “10 Filmmakers to Watch” in 2018 for the Belonging series.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Jungian analysis is the short answer. I have always been a writer, storyteller, a listener to and witness to other people’s stories as well as a performer and director. I had a great Jungian psychologist in my early 20s when I was newly married, and she suggested I start this business helping older people to tell their stories through documentary film. The idea grew on me, as I wanted to combine my love for people and story with documentary film. I’ve always had a great passion to be an entrepreneur and do my own thing as well. I felt like I could both follow my heart and passions and help people. The concept has greatly expanded and grown since then. It’s been an amazing journey so far, 13 years in!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There have been so many it’s hard to pick one! I’d say synchronicities have abounded…. One of my favorite filming moments ever was going back to a small, industrial town in New Jersey just outside of Manhattan with a client and his sister who were in their 70s. We went to their childhood home just to see it from the outside but they decided to ring the bell. They hadn’t been back in 50 years. The woman who answered had lived there when they did. She had babysat for them! It was an incredibly emotional, joyful reunion, and she let us inside to see the apartment. It was a priceless moment. That’s one of the moments that let me know I was truly on a path with heart.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Undercharging! Not that funny. Early on I was hired by a family, and I didn’t fully grasp who they were, but let’s just say they run a very large, multinational company. As part of their Legacy project I filmed them donating a million dollars to an inner-city public school that they had gone to as children. Once I showed up to the shoot, I felt intimidated by the heavy hitters I was suddenly filming (one of whom wound up becoming the U.S. Secretary of Education). Well before I knew what it was, I was suffering from major imposter syndrome. It dawned on me that day that I was definitely undercharging them, but also that I was working with people who had the wealth to make a huge impact on the world. But I do think it took me a long time to realize the true value of the work I was offering to people. It’s hard when you love what you’re doing so much that you feel like you would do it for free or even pay others to let you do it. It was hard for me to recognize my own worth for the first few years. I’ve learned to value myself since then, though I’d say that is still a work in a progress. Though honestly my perfectionism is up when I read this question, and a part of me just blanks at the thought of mistakes I might have made. Though I know that I’ve made mistakes, many of which probably made me laugh, and all of which I’m sure I’ve learned a lot more from than my successes.

Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?

With our documentary series, Belonging in the USA: Stories from Our Neighbors, we are creating a series of uplifting socially relevant documentary films that inspire brave conversations, community discussions, and soul-searching introspection. By featuring storytellers who would not necessarily be able to reach as wide of an audience were it not for the film we have made about them, we are helping to bridge communities. People are constantly being put in boxes, divided, and torn apart sometimes literally from one another. There is a massive “us and them” movement from various directions. Our films are about the ways that we are all connected through our shared humanity and the journey we all must take through the struggle that is human life. Even though our storytellers often are facing extreme obstacles like direct oppression, and even torture by their own governments, their stories remind us of the capacity we all have to overcome, to rise up, and to be resilient.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

One thing I have seen time and time again as I help people share their stories, whether its with their extended families or a wider audience, is the healing power of sharing and receiving stories. I feel that with our current series we have brought a lot of hope and healing to crowds of strangers who might never have been in the room with one another for any other reason. I think about one woman who with tears in her eyes thanked us from the bottom of her heart for the deep talk that followed one screening at the Echo Park Film Center likening the experience to feeling like “church” in the best sense. Or the 8th grade student, out on parole, who was forced to come to class the day we showed the film in his classroom. Reeking of marijuana, he laid on the couch at first feigning disinterest. I watched as his eyes widened and he couldn’t help popping his head around to listen to Michael’s tale of overcoming adversity and maintaining dignity and purpose. It’s hard to quantify this kind of shift or change. It’s subtle. Powerful. Quiet. And hopefully lasting. We need more positive stories. Role models. Examples of how to rise up and not be defeated by our hopelessness. That’s what we’re offering.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I actually think it starts with the individual and then branches out to those other groups. If I had to list three things we can all do on a personal level, they would be:

Pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!

Paying attention is an expression of love.

So pay attention to the way you’re feeling and what’s causing you to feel that way. Pay attention to your inner guidance, your gut, and your heart. Pay attention to the person you’re passing on the street. If it feels right, exchange a smile, make eye contact, connect. Pay attention to your neighbors. Pay attention to your neighborhood. Pay attention to your children. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Pay attention to what community leaders are doing. Pay attention to what government officials are doing.

I feel that it first starts with us each paying attention and taking responsibility for our perceptions and experiences and then asking for and receiving help. When we are attentive in this way then we are more awake in our lives.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is listening, inviting reflection and questioning, and allowing for flow. I recently led a meeting with my outreach team, an all-female group, several of whom are also dear friends of mine. One of these women was really struggling to understand the pace and content of the meeting and asked me to slow things down. The truth is I’d come to that meeting a bit annoyed and resentful for having set it up the way I had in the first place. It was on a weekend and in general my weekends are sacred family time and restful, something my soul needs to be able to give 100% the rest of the week. I had to drive in bad traffic to get there and arrived just as it was supposed to start, not early as I had intended. And so even though I was grateful for them all being there and also giving up some of their weekend time, I carried that resentment and stress of my drive in to the meeting when it started. My energy was off. So this particular woman, who is a sensitive, empath like I am, was challenging me and calling me out on my own negative energy. Rather than feel judged or angry or indignant by her public questioning of basically everything we were going to be talking about in the meeting, I took it as an invitation to both slow down and help her to understand where we were going. Her questions allowed us all to articulate ourselves better and to communicate some ideas that ultimately will enhance our teamwork and the project as a whole. I find much of what I do that might be considered leading has more to do with listening and asking follow-up questions than giving orders or directions.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish people had told me that it wasn’t the effort I put in in terms of hours in front of a screen that mattered as much as the human connections.

When I started my company, I often worked 12–15 hour days as I was wearing all the hats then. Ultimately, though, what helped my business to grow and last wasn’t that time I put in in front of my computer editing and emailing and researching, though of course that played a role. Instead, it was the face to face meetings I had, the chance encounters, and the planned ones. I guess that’s called networking, but it was more than just networking. It was the connecting with people in real life that led me to grow both as a person and grow my business.

I wish someone had told me to get used to asking for help more even when it’s super uncomfortable.

I’ve been dysfunctionally independent for years! It’s an obstacle I’ve had to overcome again and again. With this Belonging series, I’ve had to get really good at asking because I’m fundraising for the first time in my life. I was blessed to have a couple of sessions with this amazing fundraising coach a year before I even started this film series when I was going to be fundraising for a different documentary project. She helped me not only get comfortable with how uncomfortable it is to ask, but to also really get clear on my worth and the gift that it is to others to contribute to worthwhile projects in the world. This is something that makes logical sense when I’m helping others, but somehow, somewhere in my programming it didn’t apply to me and the unique ways I can make a difference.

I wish someone had told me that I had a long sales cycle.

I finally worked with a great business coach about 4 years in to my business and one of the things I got out of that was the understanding what a sales cycle is and that I have a very long one. It helps me to remember that to this day, and it totally makes sense. For the type of work I’m doing, it’s so personal, I’m building relationships that are often life long with my clients and the people whose stories I am privileged to help tell. It takes a while to make a decision to sit down and face one’s own mortality which is part of what making a Legacy film entails. Not that I ask always for people to directly talk about their death, but anytime you’re asking people to do something that will be serving future generations, mortality comes up. I think I wish I’d known there would be so many ups and downs in my business and in my income just as in life, and to be patient through them and ride them out. Not to take them so personally.

I wish someone had told me that there’s no such thing as balance when you’re a working mom.

I have an incredible almost nine-year-old daughter, and becoming a mom was a lifelong dream. It has been such a blessing to work for myself and be able to set my own schedule, be there for her more than I probably could if I wasn’t my own boss, and also hopefully model for her what it looks like to follow one’s passions as a career woman. However…there is guilt, there are missed events, there are schedule mishaps, there are not many gourmet meals that I cook, and there are many mistakes. This leads me to the last point though…

I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to do it all perfectly.

I come from a long line of perfectionists — especially the women in my family. It is very tempting when you’re running your own business and you feel like you’re on a mission to get caught in the trap of perfectionism. This is something I may always struggle with a bit, but meditation helps. Thank God I discovered it early on in my business too because I feel like that time in nature, playing my guitar, quality time with my husband and daughter, and moving my body are what keep stress and my natural tendency to be a control freak/perfectionist somewhat at bay. At least on my best days.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I feel like the movement I would inspire that would bring the most good to the most people is already underway and it’s at the core of what it means to be a human. It requires tenderness, open-heartedness, sometimes broken-heartedness, empathy, and love. It involves remembering and recognizing in each moment that we are, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously said, “not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It begins with the awareness that we are all connected and that this connection is deep down, embedded in our DNA. There is no culture, no tribe, no political party, no race, no religion more important than this truth. We are one human race.

One core concept for me is that if you are here, you belong. Period. The title of our series is in some ways ironic for that reason, since I feel we are all citizens of the earth. If you are on this planet, you are supposed to be here. You belong here. No matter what. That would be the mantra of my movement if I was starting one. Bringing people together around the central connecting theme of our inherent belonging that no one else can take away from us. That’s a radical idea in times when so many are being told for this reason or that that they do not belong, that their experiences aren’t valid, that they don’t matter. This internalized sense of not belonging has created frictions and chaos that I hope to soothe with deep conversations that bring people back into their hearts.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Life lesson quotes have been hugely important to me for as long as I can remember. In 8th grade my mom let a friend and I cover my bedroom wall with inspiring quotes when I was going through a particularly dark time, so it’s a challenge to pick just one. One of my favorites is by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Those are words to live by for me. They are a reminder to me to be conscious of being a good steward of my relationships. It also reminds me to check in with my own feelings when I’m around others, because I have learned that how I feel when I’m around someone tells me way more than what their words or even actions can.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would have said Maya Angelou, but since that’s no longer possible, I’d have to say Brene Brown. Her work on wholeheartedness, vulnerability, shame, belonging, and now leadership has been hugely inspirational and influential for me. But I want to say that it is serious tie between Brene Brown and Ani Difranco, though the idea of sharing a meal with Ani is much more intimidating for some reason. Ani is someone who literally got me through many of the darkest days ever since I was about 12. I’ve met her for a few seconds twice and stared into her intense eyes. Her music feels like so much a part of my very being but I know just like all of us she’s very human. I’d be honored to sit with her, though probably a bit star struck too;) So hard to pick just one, I can think of so many more badass women I’d love to sit with including, Malala, India Arie, Krista Tippett, and Anne Lamott.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

As myself on LI, FB and Instagram @ariellenobile

On Instagram @belonging_series

FB @belongingintheusa

Twitter @belongingseries

#belongingseries #busa #belongingintheusa

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Why entrepreneurs and business leaders should stop “toning it down”

by Dev Tandon
Well-Being//

17 Creative Weekend Routines For a Happier, More Successful Week

by Marina Khidekel

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.