On Leadership

10 lessons from the International Leadership Program

1024 683 Shaveena Anam

“Leadership is something that is good. Anything else is an abuse of power”, Mohamad Amersi, philanthropist, and CEO of Emergent Telecom Ventures said in his introductory speech at the inauguration of the Prince’s Trust International’s Leadership Program. This statement stayed with me throughout the two weeks I spent in the UK, where I had the honor of being 1 out of 80 young change makers selected from over 6000 applications.

The program consisted of leadership workshops with business psychology consultant, Pearn Kandola; an engaging public speaking workshop with ‎Copywriter and Trainer at Let’s Do This, Al Brunker; and inspiring speeches and words of advice from various experts and leaders such as Kate Adie who was a former BBC correspondent, Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, and former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. My expectations from the program were to enhance my own understanding of leadership so as to manage my own team better, make important connections with other people who are doing significant work in their own countries, and take back relevant lessons to contribute to the work being carried out at BYLC. In this article, I share some of my reflections on the key things I learned from the program, and the aspects of myself that I would like to improve on.    read more

Transforming Inspiring Youth into Role Models

2048 1363 Salman Sabbab

Imagine a TV reporter is interviewing you and suddenly he asks, “Who’s your role model and why?” You are on camera and have only the fraction of a second to come up with a name. What would your answer be? If you stumble and struggle before uttering a name, you are not alone. Most of the youth of our generation are on the same boat, where we are not sure if we have a role model or not. Recently, I had the opportunity to interact with students of different universities from divisional cities. What I found common among them is the absence of role models in their life.

No doubt the role models significantly influence a person’s personality or behavior, however, role models have a bigger role for the community to create positive trends. Role models work as a catalyst to bring about positive change in the community, leaving strong legacies for their followers. This leads to healthy competition in the community, which brings out the best performance from their followers. Interestingly, there are many incidents where successful people claim that they’ve turned their role models into their competitors, being influenced by the work of their role models.

One of the main causes of having lack of role models among youth is lack of effective platform for youth engagement in districts and sub-districts in Bangladesh, where youth can interact with fellow youth from diverse backgrounds of the community, discuss on national or global affairs, participate in community-led initiatives, receive skills training, and meet their role models. Lack of proper guidance limits career choice of these youths, and makes them intellectually inactive. In the worst scenario, frustration creeps into their life, which leads them to get involved in various anti-social activities.

We’ve seen a paradigm shift in Dhaka when it comes to creating mainstream platforms for youth engagement, particularly in last 8-10 years. Besides academic pursuits, young people have the access to diverse youth engagement platforms where they can explore different avenues: music, sports, arts, cultural activities, coding, voluntary work etc. to discover their interest and passion.  At BYLC, while I was attending Building Bridges through Leadership Training program and working in the alumni network, I had the opportunity to work with bright youth from diverse backgrounds, which brought new perspectives in my life when it comes to approaching my career.

While talking with some university students from different Upazillas, I was thrilled to hear the stories of their real-life struggles which they had successfully overcome to get into the university. Some students have admitted that their advice nowadays carries a lot of weight in any decision-making process of their family, which was completely unimaginable few years ago. Whenever they return to their native villages during holidays, people often visit their place to seek advice regarding higher education of their family members. Despite having sound academic backgrounds and immense leadership potential, these youth often fail to assert themselves only due to lack of right guidance, motivation, and training. What can be done to motivate these youth groups?

Firstly, these capable young people should be given necessary training, so that they can become more competitive and competent. Then, they should be provided engagement platforms in their native communities where they can transfer those skills to fellow peers to the best of their ability. Such training can not only bolster the leadership acumen of promising young people, but also inspire fellow youth of their respective communities to engage in meaningful activities. This platform can transform youth with great potential into role models, who can create positive impact in the communities.

It is a clarion call for all concerned stakeholders to invest in creating youth engagement platforms for our young generations. Media can play an instrumental role in recognizing these local youth-engagement platforms, and giving proper traction to the meaningful work of these potential youths. Besides, youth organizations can connect these inspiring youth with celebrated youth icons of our country by providing them space to exchange views and motivation.  Leadership institutes like BYLC can offer leadership training to them for building their leadership capacity. Also, NGO’s, government and private sectors can join hands together to lend infrastructural as well as financial support to create such engagement platforms for youth, especially in peri-urban and rural areas. If we can transform these inspiring youth into role models, we will automatically find solutions to various social problems of our time.

The author is an Officer at Social Innovation Lab, BRAC

‘Leader’ vs. ‘Leadership’

2592 1944 Almeer Ahsan Asif and Maliha Ahsan

‘Charismatic’, ‘brave’, ‘daring’, ‘motivating’, ‘confident’these are just a few of the numerous words we hear when the qualities of a leader are described. We hear about leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and we hear about what great ‘visionaries’ they were. Sometimes, however, ‘inspirational’ stories of these great ‘influential’ figures derail our understanding of the true meaning of leadership. The young generation of today is constantly being fed the idea that they have to be ‘big leaders’ in their fields, and in order to achieve that position, they must inherit the ‘big attributes’ portrayed by big leaders. Focus is then turned away from the work of the leaders, which is actually the most important aspect, and turned towards how to become charming, appealing, poised, and the list goes on.  read more

Empowering Youth In an Uncertain World

1104 712 Ejaj Ahmad

We are living in both exciting and dispiriting times. On one hand, we are witnessing extraordinary advancements in technology that is connecting us in ways that was once unimaginable, while on the other, we are seeing an uprising of populism and a rejection of globalization. While Uber launches in Dhaka, their engineers in Silicon Valley are experimenting with driverless cars. We are also seeing, simultaneously, societies turning inwards, looking to close borders and build walls, manifested recently with Brexit and the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. There seems to be a crisis in leadership. Where have all the good leaders gone? 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

Leadership in the Absence of Authority

2448 1632 Jo Lovatt

This article first appeared on the DFID guest blog on June 13, 2014. 

Not long after I arrived in Bangladesh, something very mundane happened to me that also happened to shatter my perspective. I was walking home and holding on to the remains of my lunch, naively expecting to encounter a rubbish bin along the way. My absent confusion turned into realisation when the bin never materialized, and it dawned on me for the first time how much I took for granted. read more

How Do We Bridge the Gender Gap? | Youth Bangladesh Leadership Development

5616 3744 Jill Hufnagel

On my way into work one morning, I heard a lyric from Dala’s “Good as Gold” that struck me as a provocative way of thinking about the challenges of making progress on the gender gap: “I won’t let the dust fall on my life.” read more

Heavy Lifting: Leading in Modern Times

5472 2223 Barbara Kellerman

For a variety of reasons, exercising leadership has become harder in recent years and resisting leadership has become easier. Followers are ascendant, leaders are in decline. This author calls the change a “seismic shift” and most observers can see it. Most, that is, except perhaps the one constituency that either does not or cannot see the change – the leadership industry. Readers will learn how the shift occurred and how it has caused what the author refers to as a “crisis” in leadership.

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An Inside Look into the BYLC Leadership Master Class | Bangladesh Leadership Youth Reflection Training Development

2592 1728 Sumaiya T Ahmed

The first time I heard about the Master Class on Leadership, I was hesitant. I was already a BBLT 3 graduate, and felt that I knew most of the concepts of leadership that would be taught in class. On top of that, I had piles of work to do at the office, so when one of my colleagues asked me to join the four-day long class, I did so without much enthusiasm. Little did I know, however, what the Master Class had in store for me!


From the very beginning of the Master Class, I, along with the rest of the group, were thoroughly engaged in leadership learning. Each and every discussion that we were having was being turned into a dynamic learning experience. In the first session, we delved deep into the role of leadership and authority. As the discussions progressed, we got drawn into a heated debate on the subject. Personally, I am not a big fan of confrontations, so, at one point, I became frustrated and looked towards Khaled Bhai, the instructor, to intervene. read more

Are Values an Essential Ingredient of Leadership?

5888 3504 Dr. Max Klau

Amongst those who study such matters, one school of thought says no, that leadership is a simple matter of power and influence, regardless of why or how that power and influence is used. From this perspective, a leader is someone who has followers, and a great leader is someone who has a lot of followers. The matter of whether that leader marches those followers off a cliff or towards a more perfect and sustainable society is secondary or irrelevant.

This view leads naturally to what I’ll call the “Gandhi/Hitler problem.” Gandhi had a great many followers, but so did Hitler. If leadership is essentially a matter of power and influence, then both individuals must be deemed great by virtue of the fact that they both changed history and influenced the lives of millions. For anyone with a moral compass and respect for human dignity, however, that’s an uncomfortable — actually, a repugnant — assertion. read more