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November 2016

Being a Leader

1920 1255 Zehra Nawreen Khan

This article was originally published in Star Weekend, The Daily Star.

”What makes a leader?”

This question was asked by the lead instructor, Khaled Saifullah, to my class, on the first day of the Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT) program at BYLC. Each of us produced different answers. One participant said, “A leader is someone who mobilizes people”. Another said, “A leader is one who takes initiatives”, “A leader is someone everyone looks up to”, “A leader motivates, inspires and represents people,” the comments poured in. Khaled Bhai neither refuted any idea nor did he rule one as accurate. Geared up with pens and notebooks, we all waited intently for him to give us the answer. A moment of silence ensued, accompanied by confusion. We looked at one another, some of us shifting in our seats, others trying to hide their growing anxiety. As the restlessness became palpable, we waited for him to relieve our tension. There came no answer and on that momentous first day we never ended up learning what qualities define a leader. But this was only the beginning.

The BBLT journey, for me, was a rewarding experience, one that tore at my convictions but exposed me to a world of opportunities. Thrusting myself into new territory, I was able to transcend the limits of thought, and gained the confidence to initiate action addressing social issues that are important to me.

Once we were equipped with the rights tools, the second phase of the program required us to implement what we learned in the real world and catalyze social change. This was the hard part; no matter how many books you read on leadership, nothing can prepare you for practical situations, if you lack the knowledge acquired by experience. My teammates and I chose a makeshift school for the street children in the vicinity of Panthokunja Public Park, as we were familiar with the area. After brainstorming different ideas and assessing the site, we came up with a plan to help the school.

We felt that, in addition to poverty alleviation, lack of access to essential services such as primary education, basic healthcare, water sanitation, nutrition, etc. are the most pressing issues and overarching challenges facing Bangladesh. Due to lack of access to essential services in underprivileged communities, our group, Project Lighthouse, decided to work on raising awareness about education, health and hygiene among the underprivileged children attending the school, as well as delivering modest support services to improve their standard of living. However, since we only had modest resources to aid our project, we decided to focus on education and sanitation. We planned to donate an electronic projector so that they could learn from different visual mediums, and to install a portable toilet to ensure better sanitation.

The challenges we faced to achieve our mission were formidable. One such instance was when we realized that it is easier said than done to install the toilet. We needed prior permission from City Corporation before we could put it in place. The City Corporation recognized the importance of the matter for provision of sanitation facilities to the community .It was fortunate for the community and us that they agreed to donate a toilet from their own resources. We then had to revise our plans, but it could not overshadow the joy and satisfaction of making a small difference in the lives of those students.

So, back to the question at hand, ‘what makes a leader?’ Without having the answer laid out in front of us, we learned what we needed to through experiential sessions. It is this heuristic approach to learning that enabled us to discover our potential and develop qualities attributed to leaders. Going into the program, we all had our individual concepts about what ‘leadership’ meant and we realized that none of them can be ruled out as either accurate or otherwise. But one thing that we learned on Day 1 is that when there is a crisis, a leader is one who does not look up to authority for answers.

Heading Towards a Common Platform

1920 1255 Zannatul Ferdous Miftah

This article was originally published in Star Weekend, The Daily Star. 

“What is the main purpose of your life?” was the most frequently asked question throughout my two and a half month journey during the Building Bridges through Leadership Training (BBLT) at Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC).If the purpose of our life was just to live, then we all would fail one day. So I would say the purpose of my life is to mobilize people towards taking action for a common good.

I realized that the successful completion of the 12th BBLT program was not the end, but the embryo of my leadership journey. I took the chance to apply to be a campus ambassador for the 13th BBLT program. Ambassadors were recruited from different renowned institutions of Dhaka, including Viqarunnisa Noon College, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Bangladesh University of Professionals, Islamic University of Technology, BRAC University, East West University.

The Campus Ambassador has the responsibility of encouraging students of their respective education institutions to apply to BYLC programs. Initially, the role of a campus ambassador did not seem very tough to me as I was a fresh graduate of BBLT 12 and had the zeal to bring more young and bright minds under the tutelage of BLYC. I had personally identified many enthusiastic individuals with potential who just needed the appropriate push in the right direction. So, I had to convince the tender hearts to apply to the BBLT program to get their long awaited common platform, and meet other likeminded individuals from diverse backgrounds.

As I worked as Campus Ambassador, I was one again reminded of how important it is to talk about the tenets of leadership to the youth of Bangladesh. There is a common perception that leadership can only by exercised by people in authority positions, such as politicians. But at BYLC, we absorbed the idea that that leadership is all about taking the appropriate action at the appropriate time, the power does not only lie with political parties! So I took my time in explaining to people that leadership is an inherent potential in every individual, all we have to do is to bring the maximum output by utilizing it.

We used the consent letter provided by BYLC to take the permission from the university authority to set up a booth for the applicants at TSC and also post BYLC posters at Curzon Hall, Faculty of Business Studies, Arts Faculty notice board and also to the residential halls and cafeterias at different corner of the campus. We also went on FM radio to talk about our initiatives.

Covering the large campus, postering, passionately giving presentations wearing BYLC’s green polo T-shirt with my fellow campus ambassadors Mahia, Jubaer and Joy was never hectic, rather, we learned from each other, made new friends and preceded towards fulfilling BYLC’s mission to bridge gaps in society by uniting youth from diverse backgrounds, equipping them with leadership, problem solving, teamwork skills and engaging them in community service and active citizenship. By working as Campus Ambassador, I was able to expand my network and maintain new relationships with the academic professionals, clubs and students of my university. The activities enabled me to develop my communication and teamwork skills and I became more confident in giving presentations.

Performing the responsibilities of a campus ambassador was challenging but also exciting and a continuous learning process. I would encourage anyone who wonders about their purpose, to take on leadership roles such as these because no matter how big or small the task, it eventually leads toward making progress for the common good.

Readying the Future Today

1920 1255 Tasnim Jara

This article was originally published in Star Weekend, The Daily Star.

Can leadership be taught in a classroom? We are confronted with this question every day when we teach leadership to a diverse group of enthusiastic young students at Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC). Leadership is a generic term that everyone has an opinion about, which makes the job of teaching leadership all the more challenging. read more

Connecting, Collaborating and Co-creating

1920 1255 Iqra L. Qamari

This article was originally published in Shout, The Daily Star. 

As the countdown begun on the enormous screen, the massive crowd joined in, echoing across the hall, the descending of the numbers. The concluding footage showed the alliance of hundreds of delegates, boasted of 30 renowned speakers, of zero selfie count and Facebook scrolling; at the end of it everyone broke into applause.

This was how the Youth Leadership Summit conducted by Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) finally finished its three-day program on August 21. The summit was held at the International Convention City, Bashundhara in Dhaka, bringing together around 400 national and international delegates after a rigorous selection procedure. It consisted of leadership sessions, plenaries and keynote speeches from notable visionaries. read more

Breaking Stereotypes

2167 1417 Noshin Noorjahan

Where in Dhaka do you ever see girls from English medium schools casually socialize with boys from Madrassas as equals? I was suddenly struck by the question as I walked into the first day of leadership training at the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC). In the classroom, a group of girls from Viqarunnisa were laughing together, some boys in skullcaps had grouped in one part of the class, and I automatically sat with some girls who looked familiar to me. read more

Speaking in Public: The Double Edged Sword

2592 1728 Rafaeal Hossain

“Words have incredible power. They can make people’s hearts soar, or they can make people’s hearts sore.”- Dr. Mardy Grothe read more

Changing Your Story

2736 1824 Jahedul Islam

My leadership journey began when I was a first year Alim student. The Sajeda Foundation encouraged me to apply to the Building Bridges through Leadership Training program as I had always been involved in different extracurricular activities. My interest was particularly aroused by the term “leadership”, as I had always wanted to do something of purpose, but was self conscious, and doubted my ability to mobilize people. I felt that people wouldn’t listen to me. read more

7 Ways to Get Your Voice Heard

2736 1824 Jo Lovatt

Everyone should have an “elevator pitch” ready to go at all times, whether it is about you or about your project. If someone says, “tell me about yourself”, you should be able to give them a well-rounded picture of your successes and ambitions in 2 minutes or less. read more

The Abiding Tyranny of the Male Leadership Model — A Manifesto

1600 1000 Barbara Kellerman

I’m sick of hearing how far we’ve come. I’m sick of hearing how much better situated we are now than before. I’m sick of hearing how women are closing the gaps (in health outcomes, educational attainment, and economic participation), how in some cases women are superseding men, and how in the present more than in the past women are progressing to positions of middle and upper management. read more

Take Charge of Your Life

2736 1824 Tasnim Mustaque

Life after graduation is a thought that torments every graduate. Of course, there is excitement about being unshackled from early morning classes, night-long cramming, and dreadful grade announcement days. However, the “blues” engendered by the brusque realization of adulthood are inescapable – now what?

A myriad of career advices and warnings from deeply concerned well-wishers inevitably accompanies your bane. It is only human to get daunted and confused amidst this pandemonium, eventually losing sight of who you really are and what you really want to do.

An insufferable barrage of questions, the spectrum of which stretches from the utterly practical (How do I get a job?) to the immensely profound (What is my life’s purpose?), stares at you.

Unsurprisingly, every graduate faces the same questions, but the answers are unique to each. There’s no silver bullet, no magic solution. Nonetheless, mistakes and miscalculations made at this crucial time are often irreversible.

To get a bit more perspective, it is worth knowing some facts. Every year a graduate enters the job market as just one in a group of 1.8 million other soldiers. Every year, the employment situation worsens in a country where a sixth of the population is already unemployed or underemployed.

Recent ILO reports state further grim realities. Between 2000 and 2006 about 250,000 jobs were created for every point of GDP growth in Bangladesh. Assuming this estimation is fairly valid, with GDP growth rate of about 6%, annual job creation would be about 1.5 million. But even that does not match the 1.8 million new job seekers every year let alone those who are already unemployed.

With so much difficulty in securing a credible job, no wonder entrepreneurship is the new popular kid on the block for young graduates these days. However, the facts here according to the World Bank, is that only about 9,000 businesses get registered in Bangladesh annually and the Doing Business 2013 study ranks Bangladesh as 129th among 185 countries!

I know the facts above aren’t exciting but I shift uneasily at them too. The writing’s on the wall. It truly is survival of the fittest. The point that I am trying to make is that unless you take charge, your state of confusion based on what other people say is bound to get worse as you strive to enter a fiercely competitive and difficult post-university life irrespective of which profession you might choose to take up. The very people, who will be spearheading our front-lines and giving us direction in a few years’ time, need some direction for themselves right now.

This is the cue for leadership. Long burdened by its unjustly awarded political and authoritative connotation, the word “leadership” holds the answers to all of Bangladesh’s problems. Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC), the country’s first leadership institute, has been dedicated to sensitizing and training tomorrow’s young leaders since 2008. The organization believes that the multi-faceted and convoluted predicaments facing our country can only be mitigated by a generation of compassionate and competent leaders. In accordance with that vision, BYLC has implemented an impressive number of youth leadership programs already, uniting students from different academic and socio-economic backgrounds.

The application of leadership in our lives is grossly misunderstood and underestimated. Leadership, when wrongful connotations are ignored, refers to the collective mobilization of a system towards a common purpose. Notwithstanding, the concept of leadership application in our individual lives is largely unpracticed. BYLC believes that the practice of that very concept is what our young graduates need to succeed in their personal and professional lives. Youth Leadership Bootcamp (YLB), a brand new leadership, program has been launched with the view of realizing this vision.

Youth Leadership Bootcamp, as the name suggests, will be a rigorous, fast-paced program on leadership and its application in personal and professional life. The program will consist of lectures on the exercise of leadership, simulative negotiation sessions, team-building games, visits to public and private organizations and non-profit projects, peer learning, and other networking opportunities.

BYLC has always believed that people are most effective when they are exercising leadership on behalf of the issues they are truly passionate about. Youth Leadership Bootcamp will therefore emphasize self-discovery and self-motivation, concepts which are underestimated in our increasingly mechanical post-university lives.

The workshop is designed around three central attributes of leadership: exploration, experience and expression. The program will put you in situations where you will be compelled to open your mind, rediscover yourself, set your imagination free; interact and work with other bright young minds and see firsthand how real life problems are solved in leading organizations; and articulate your thoughts and feelings to engender meaningful change. 100 full-time undergraduates, selected from a competitive pool of applicants, will spend three full days in Chittagong, lodging at BRAC Learning Center (BLC), Kazir Dewri.

BYLC acknowledges that a three-day Bootcamp isn’t enough for you to find answers to your innumerable introspective questions, but it could be an important “turnkey” in unlocking your potential as a confident young mind, in charge of his own life to say the least. Youth Leadership Bootcamp will give participants a well-rounded experience which will leave them refreshed and ready to take on the world.