Visionary leadership and Bangladesh in 2041
Visionary leadership is all about being able to visualise a state of being in the future that seems unreal or impossible today. At present, most do not believe that it will be possible and often laugh at it as a pipe dream. It takes amazing courage and a bold attitude to think of possibilities in such a way, and it is not everyone's cup of tea. Visionary leaders are, therefore, rare and coveted.
Today, at the 50th of our independence, we have many achievements and reasons to be proud of as a nation. It is the right time to envision our next 50 years of the journey, and we need a visionary act once again.
That visionary act was made by our prime minister a few years back. When she coined the word "Digital Bangladesh" and talked about a developed nation by 2041, many laughed, and trolls were made about digital this digital that, exactly what is expected of a visionary leadership dream by the masses, who fail to get what the leader is saying.
Today when we download our vaccination certificate online through Surokkha portal and look at the digital process that managed the whole vaccination effort, we should realise that we are starting to see what she meant by "Digital Bangladesh".
It should be clear to us that Bangladesh is on the move towards its 2nd independence, economic independence.
All the matrix from different organisations shows that we are poised to achieve our dream by 2041. Therefore, it's not the time to look for divisions in our thinking. Instead, we need to unite and galvanise in the same direction and make the most of our demographic dividend.
So, who is our role model, and who should we follow? Well, the answer is in our past. We did not really follow anyone to get to this place. We took ideas but adopted our own path and emerged as a role model for the developing world. The main realisation we must take from our history is that we can craft and create our own course and not look for someone else to show us the path.
The key question is: are we ready to lead from our own positions? Do we have our own visionary leadership for ourselves, the profession we are in and the leadership we provide?
As we celebrate the 50th year of independence, we stand at the crossroad of our journey. All of us must try and choose the path of visionary leadership, a path unknown and less travelled, and bring more people in that path and inspire them to do what they possibly think and believe they can't.
A visionary act for ourselves is to invest our time and resources in Bangladesh to build the future of our next generation here and not look for migrating to a foreign land. We must choose to lead a life, not just live a life.
A visionary act is to believe that our universities will be the source of high-quality education for South Asia. If we can provide education to a Bhutanese doctor who makes it as their prime minister, why can't this be achieved?
A visionary act is to believe that we will be the manufacturing hub for Asia. If we can do it with garments, then why not five other industries?
A visionary act is to believe that we will lead South Asia culturally. Bangla, being one of the most-spoken languages in the world, and 21st February as our inspiration, we should believe.
We need to create leaders in every sphere of our society and need to build institutional capacity for leadership development in Bangladeshi way. Starting from school curriculum to postgraduate level and beyond, we need to teach, coach and mentor leadership.
We need a clear mind shift from a blame culture to optimism culture and learn to co-create and build on others' idea. We need to find ways for our intellectual expatriates or non-resident Bangladeshis to contribute.
The unskilled workers send their entire savings back home, and with that dollar, we are growing stronger. Now we need the intellectuals to remit the know-how and skills acquired overseas to help the nation leap to the next level. We also need to remember that all that works abroad won't necessarily work in Bangladesh, and that is where local knowledge and experience is key to making the best use of our resources.
Corporate Bangladesh needs massive leadership development as the founding fathers are passing away and a generation shift is taking place. We know that as the economy matures and organisations mature, the corporate structure evolves. Rather than breaking up corporate empires amongst the next generation, a strong management structure and board governance can keep the original entity going and build on the legacy.
Century-old companies in the world were family companies at the start, and today, one cannot name the owning family of most of the big 100 plus year-old multinationals. A strong board structure and management culture is the way to build lasting organisations that grows value for themselves and generates employment and revenue.
The credibility of Bangladeshi management is growing, and this is one area that needs acceleration and collaboration. We need to showcase success stories and our icons and inspire the next generation.
Above all, we need to inject a strong passion and pride of being a Bangladeshi. It's time to walk with our head held high as a proud nation that is a jewel of South Asia. It is time to awaken the spirit of 1971, not for war but for a New Bangladesh, My Bangladesh.
The author is the managing director of British American Tobacco Bangladesh.