Dr. Prasad Kaipa on Leadership Development in Bangladesh.

Dr. Prasad Kaipa on Leadership Development in Bangladesh.

September 18, 2014

From smart to wise: Igniting Genius of Bangladeshi CEOs

Dr. Prasad Kaipa (1)

Dr. Prasad Kaipa is an Indian-American scholar and trainer in the field of leadership development, change management, innovation and personal mastery. He coached over 110 CEOs and senior executives of Fortune 500 companies in US, Europe and Asia. He worked with over 50 companies including Apple and taught at London Business School, Indian School of Business, Dartmouth University, INSEAD, USC etc. He is an expert in leadership and management training with his unique way of ‘ignite the genius within’.

Recently on his first visit to Bangladesh, he conducted a three-day workshop titled ‘Transformational Leadership: Tapping into Your Personal DNA’ for 32 top bankers and CEOs of local companies at BRAC CDM, Rajendrapur. He finds immense potential of Bangladeshi executives in running companies keeping abreast with international management practices in view of globalization. In an exclusive interview with Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) he shares his thoughts on leadership development in Bangladesh.

BBF: How do you find your first training session in Bangladesh? What was special about it?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: It was quite special and exclusive for sure. It was organized by BRAC Bank and had several senior leaders from banks and other industries. I loved the openness and willingness of leaders who showed up to be unique and reflective of the quality of people in Bangladesh.

I would see and differentiate my program from other training programs by calling it executive education. This program is about building awareness and is grounded in research: both academic and practical. Many training focus on building skills only.

BBF: Industry needs leaders in pace with growth of economy. How do you see the grooming opportunity of business leaders in Bangladesh?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: I believe there is a tremendous need and opportunity for nurturing and grooming global business leaders from Bangladesh. It is not always possible for them to go to India or Singapore all the time. Offering high quality programs for leadership grooming in Bangladesh is a great opportunity.  I am glad BRAC bank took the first step and I wish them all the best.

BBF: Sharing thoughts and interacting with business leaders of Bangladesh in the training, what impression do you get about the participants regarding management skills?


Dr. Prasad Kaipa: I found that the leaders here have a lot of knowledge and a great intellect. Several of them have wonderful EQ in addition to IQ. Even more importantly, there is awareness of their gaps and curiosity to learn. Finally, I found their humility to come together, be open and vulnerable in such a program to be inspiring. Hats off to them.

In terms of management skills, I would not be able to talk in detail as I have not spent time with them discussing their work a lot. From what I have seen in the program, I would say that they have the basic ingredients to do whatever they want to do – just need more exposure, hand holding and encouragement. Then they can be as good as any in the world – it takes time, intent and commitment to learn through practice.

BBF: With your vast experience in business management worldwide, what are your suggestions for Bangladeshi top executives to keep pace with international practices?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: Exposure is the first step and they are many times traveling and meeting global leaders. They have to come from a place of confidence and willingness to experiment. They also have to experiment what they learned in their businesses.

It is important for them to go beyond “benevolent dictator” images that some of them grew up with and find a participative management style to compliment their current approaches. I talk about wise approaches that balance their natural style with what they learn from outside. When they are sensitive to the context and adopt what they can from global best practices, soon, they will be as good as any in the circles that they move in.

BBF: We know there is no shortcut to success, but how would you guide top executives and help ignite the genius within?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: First, by shifting the perspective from Bangladesh to the world, themselves to their customers and employees. They have to become aware of the larger context that defines them, their customers and competition and operate from that big picture instead of short term and selfish perspective. I believe that they are already on the path when I met them and now it is time for them to stay on the path and accelerate their move towards integrating the new perspective.

Beyond the awareness and attention to customers, they have to become more self-aware. Already, the Bangladeshi leaders have several things going for them – they are Bangla and Muslim at the same time. They are respecting their tradition and religion without losing perspective on the world and the future. Most of them are humble, confident and capable of creating visions that are global. If they can focus on purpose – especially noble purpose – in addition to their visions and values, it becomes easier for them to engage and excite their employees and customers as well.

Finally, I would say that they should focus on their energy and that of others who interact with them. For people in Bangladesh, India and other South Asian countries, long tradition is both a gift and a curse. We have to honor our past and what got us here while keeping one foot in the present moment and take action. Mindfulness is extremely critical as there are no cut and dry paths to success in these complex times.

BBF: You resort to spirituality, yoga in your approach to management. How does it help executives to excel?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: Igniting the genius depends not just on management approaches but also on psychological and philosophical approaches. We need to work on our practices and disciplines to start with so that our behaviors change and guide our processes and ultimately our mindsets. Yoga, regular exercise like walking or playing physical games create a healthy body first. Otherwise, as leaders, we pay too much attention to the mind and thanks to horrific traffic and long commute hours, we don’t take care of our health – which is the foundation for every thing. In addition, anyway, leaders take breaks for prayers several times a day – so spirituality is not really out of your life – we might as well make it a conscious part of it.

In addition, these reflective practices develop self awareness. When emotionally and spiritually we are aligned to what we do through intellectual and physical activities, we become more integrated. Integration of body, mind, heart and spirit reduces stress, increases the quality of our thinking and our ethical behavior – all of these are essential for good leaders.

BBF: What is your advice for mid-level business leaders who will succeed top executives in future?  How should they prepare themselves for top leadership?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: I talk about six capabilities to develop wise leadership in my book “From Smart to Wise” and summarize them with Acronym WISDOM. They are:

  • Working with Authenticity and Appropriateness: How can we be appropriate to the context that senior leaders are setting for customers and employees and still be authentic to bring what we need to bring – both to further the organization and themselves.
  • Intelligent and Flexible Fortitude: How do I take responsibility and ownership for various projects that we manage so that they are successful – if not, letting go of them (or holding onto them) based on how they serve the noble purpose.
  • Shifting the Perspective from What is in it for Me to Noble Purpose: Focusing on the organization, customers and employees and helping them to succeed helps you to become more successful than just focusing on your own success at any cost.
  • Deciding with Discernment: Use intuition, logic, instinct and emotion appropriately in coming up with ethical and strategic decisions for the organization and oneself.
  • Openness to Lead from Anywhere: It is important to recognize that management role is given from above but leadership comes from taking responsibility and accountability and cannot be given as a role. When you are willing to lead, follow or coach others to lead – based on what is appropriate, then leadership grows around you.
  • Motivation drives Behavior: What motivates you in the short term, medium term and long term? How clear are you in making decisions and taking actions based on appropriate motivation driver? When you make right motivation driver to shape your behavior, your actions produce more success than before.

These are useful leadership capabilities for not just middle managers but for anybody who wants to be wise leaders. Somehow everybody wants to be a smart leader but rarely thinks of becoming a wise leader and that is the need of the hour!

BBF: Do you have any plan to conduct similar training in Bangladesh in future?

Dr. Prasad Kaipa: Yes, I am in conversations with Mr. Mahbub Alam, Head of Learning & Development of BRAC Bank and we are thinking of doing similar programs for senior leaders and develop new programs for middle managers and also for families. Let us see how it evolves!

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