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Leadership Summit “Transformative human leadership during extraordinary times”

The post-pandemic reality is challenging but exciting. The pandemic period has exposed many alternatives yet effective ways in front of us. And now is the time to excel from the post-pandemic remnants. Leaders are inherently endowed with the integrity and responsibilities to reflect on the possibilities, check the challenges, and pave the ways for the industries to march forward to avail progress and growth. Therefore, the 6th edition of the Leadership Summit focused on a time-sensitive theme –  “Transformative Humane Leadership During Extraordinary Times”.

Opening the summit, The Founder and Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum, Shariful Islam, said, “Bangladesh is at a very critical crossroads. As a nation, we have performed extremely well to reach middle-income status while celebrating our 50 years of independence. We have also taken an ambitious target of becoming a developed nation by 2041, and there is a lot of optimism and aspiration around the nation’s future. We at Bangladesh Brand Forum, driven by its vision – ‘Inspiring the nation’- feel the urgency to focus on developing senior corporate leaders so that we can pursue and achieve the nation’s goal.”

The day-long summit gathered leaders and experts from various industries from home and abroad who shared their experiences and knowledge through distinguished panel discussions and keynote sessions. Having the vision at the core, the speakers branched out, discussing the challenges and complexities of leadership, sustainable business growth, corporate governance, and organisation culture with aspiring audiences.

The 6th Leadership Summit was comprised of 4 Panel Discussions, 4 Keynote Sessions and 1 Insight Session.

Insight Session with Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar

Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar, Professor, Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka; President of Asia Marketing Federation, spoke about the future of Bangladesh in the only insight session of the summit.

He first mentioned that the up-and-coming entrepreneurs are the managers. That is why there are a few things that need to be remembered from the current times. For example, the Ukraine-Russia war has a different consequence in Bangladesh, like in Supply chains. The supply chains are linked to the likes of India and China. Bangladesh, in terms of various challenges, was ranked 38 overall. The challenges for Bangladesh are much unlike Sri Lanka. One of the reasons for that is the higher per capita income. Adversely, academic progress is slower in comparison. STEM plays a very important part in progress, along with soft skills and management, which are equally as important. Constant learning and adapting to changes are the path forward.

Additionally, In the SDG goals, Bangladesh is doing better than India. Bangladesh expatriate $6 billion in terms of Human Resources in comparison with India. Moreover, Developing partnerships with developed nations can pave the path to a better future. Maintaining the per capita income is crucial. In terms of green initiatives, 7 out of the top 10 industries reside within Bangladesh. Microtransactions are revolutionising the world. Bangladesh is the largest DELTA in the world. The nation wants to be the resource provider of water to the world.

Keynote Session with Vivienne Read

Vivienne Read, Director & Leadership Trainer, Complexability Pty Ltd., Australia, shared her insight on Uncertainty & Complexity. She started by saying that understanding and knowing the nature of an issue is key to prosperity in this uncertain and complex time and world.

She explained people tend to understand things more in retrospect than in contemporary, and it is the complaint about the complex approach. Cornerstone principles of working with complexity are- Resilience, Risk, Epistemic Justice, and Multiple Perspectives. Learning from others by looking at a subject through culture is necessary, but copying what is learned is never desired or optimal. It is imperative to understand that all voices should be heard to make sense. Applying a complexity approach can help transform a certain demographic into something else which might mean something more. Failure cannot be avoided, and failure ultimately leads to more success. Changing the role of ‘Experts’ is not to diminish their capacity but to broaden their ability and range. Changing the system or connectivity or interactions is a necessity, but it doesn’t really mean changing other people.

Keynote Session with R Gopalakrishnan

R Gopalakrishnan, CEO, The Mindworks; Former Director, Tata Sons Ltd.; Author, and Corporate Advisor, spoke on “The Soft Aspects of Business Transformation” In his much philosophical story, he shared that resilience doesn’t only mean brute strength. It has a much deeper meaning than meets the eye.

Going forward with the immersive tale of his journey, he mentioned that technology has been changing ever since humans began to think. There are three layers that a company can use to protect itself. The passion of the people is like the skin of a human being. A highly engaged workforce is a measurement of the passion of the people. Self-improvement is the core ingredient for employee engagement. A culturally diverse mindset is another ingredient for positive transformation. Positivity is a driving force for any business and organisation. Without a positive outlook, prosperity becomes a far cry. Gender diversity plays a crucial role in creating a positive work environment which is increasingly important nowadays. Human beings are enormously adaptive, affecting the work environment and bringing about changes to suit the resulting innovations.

Keynote Session with Dr. Roger Levermore

Dr. Roger Levermore, Dean & Associate Professor, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, shared some of his expert opinions at the summit. Among the array of things he discussed, he stated that transformation is achieved more through failure than success.

Communication skills and wiliness to listen are considered traits of a good leader. Corporate conversation between employer and employee is a necessity, along with strong ethics and good governance. He went on to add that belief in leadership over the years has decreased. The general populace wants to see their leaders take a stand. There was a time when half of the corporate personnel did not know what CSR was, however, that changed now. Now CSR has become an integral part of business schools teaching it expressly. Plotting ESG assists in indicating the interested subject areas. The responsibilities lie with everyone and not just with the leaders. These responsibilities have to be micromanaged. Personal criticism of ESG management should be encouraged. Humane leadership is closely connected with future thinking. There are certain biases for future thinking: Optimistic Bias, Narrative Fallacy, Availability Bias and Groupthink. Thinking ahead is a hard exercise because it requires looking at things from a different angle. Scenario planning is another method for future thinking. The forecast does not always paint the most accurate predictions. Scenario planning is often used in times of complexity. Scenario planning refers to predicting multiple futures at once.

Panel Discussion

Future of Bangladesh

A panel moderated by Prof. Dr. Syed Ferhat Anwar, Professor, Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka; President, Asia Marketing Federation and featuring Md. Saiful Islam, President, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dhaka, (MCCI); Russell T. Ahmed, President, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) & Miran Ali, Vice President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Managing Director, Misami Garments Ltd.; discussed the future of Bangladesh from a corporate perspective.

In the discussion, it was viewed that Bangladesh has been becoming more dependent on global industry, and for this reason, the nation needs its own resources, which include the supply chain. It was noted with significance that Bangladesh is the 2nd biggest apparel exporter in the world. The issue with the supply chain right now is the blockage. Organised international markets could not be penetrated, and doing so is crucial. Bangladesh was the only country to stay open for business during covid, which showed the nation’s resilience. Additionally, technology is essential for the way forward. 34% of our exports go to the US; however, the other markets are also growing right now. The economic crises have made Bangladesh a hub for international markets. The eastern European nations are looking for alternatives to the Indian Markets, and Bangladesh is one of them. The only alternative for Bangladesh is the IT sector as opposed to the RMG industry.

Sustainability is necessary to remain competitive and is not just another business choice. Bangladesh has started launching green energy sources in the country. Bangladesh is not a cheap place for import, but it can be the best by really committing to the cause of sustainability. With the world going through global warming, Bangladesh was one of the lowest emitters and still falling victim to this effect. Renewable energy is one of the sources to achieve sustainability. In terms of sustainability and consistency, the records were dictated to be quite satisfactory. For example, Bangladesh ensures the quality of IT products but doesn’t compromise on their value. Bangladesh is doing better in terms of semiconductors compared to India. Bangladesh has a vast IT potential; the drawback is the connectivity with the international market. With the world investing more in IT, it is high time for Bangladesh to do the same on a bigger scale.

At least 10% of the cost of fuel should be invested towards renewable energy. Dependency on fossil fuels needs to be decreased gradually. However, it was suggested that the foreign contracts for fuel and energy need to be balanced in accordance with the costs. Bangladesh has an abundance of human resources, but there are not enough in certain progressive IT industries. The country is not developing efficient experts, which has a market in the international market. The RMG industry requires expatriates, especially because, in recent times, the market is now driven not by the consumers but the suppliers. With big industry names now employing more Bangladeshi manpower for their products, it is high time to invest human resources in these sectors. The displacement and replacement of human resources need to be addressed for optimal output.

Leaders Role in Creating Organization Culture

This panel was moderated by Moutushi Kabir, Senior Director, People, Culture and Communications, BRAC, and featured the likes of Farzanah Chowdhury Chartered Insurer ACII (UK), Managing Director & CEO, Green Delta Insurance Company Limited; Munawar Misbah Moin, Group Director, Rahimafrooz Bangladesh, Ltd.; Shwapna Bhowmick, Head of Region (Bangladesh & India), Marks and Spencer & lastly Kazi Inam Ahmed, Director, Gemcon Group.

Governance and transparency was a major topic of this discussion, as well as values and morals. According to the experts of the panel, transparency in corporate governance is, first and foremost, the most important thing. Performance-driven culture should entail making people interested and inspired as well as motivating them for the better of the industry. Independent decision-making is also important for promoting responsible behaviour. Practising values drives and promotes culture. Values are also a connecting element for growth through culture.

In the session, productive energy was given equal importance for a healthy culture in organisations. Perseverance was deemed to be another factor that needs to be promoted in organisations because that is what drove many first-generation leaders to their success. Embracing other cultural values set by the founders also plays a crucial role. Given contemporary times, empathy and a vision for the future have become core traits to possess and are necessary for cultural transformation.

As for the challenges, the biggest one was in upholding values in an organisation and ensuring discipline within said organisation. Execution of enforcing the desired culture is also a key factor. Sharing and admitting mistakes in an organisation ensures growth. It is to be remembered that every success is celebrated, no matter how small it may be. It is always important to work elsewhere before taking the initiative for their own organisation. Evaluating an individual based on their apparent trait is never a desirable trait to have. It was appraised as more helpful to understand others in order to be able to work together in harmony.

Driving Creativity & Originality within Future Employees

The panel for this discussion was moderated by Beth Macdonald, Chief People Officer, Biocellion SPC; Leadership Trainer, Manila, Philippines; Director, Future Considerations. The panel featured Nazia Andaleeb Preema, Visual Artist, President, Women in Leadership – WIL; Director Bangladesh Brand Forum; Founder, Bangladesh Creative Forum (BCF); Founder, Preema’s Atelier; Sabbir Nasir, Executive Director, ACI Logistics Ltd. (SHWAPNO) & Yasir Azman, Chief Executive Officer, Grameenphone Ltd.

The very idea of creativity, innovation, and originality was explored during this discussion. It was said that creativity shouldn’t be centred around certain teams. Finding new ways to solve a problem and doing things is the essence of things. The idea of creativity is to be authentic and to understand the merits of being aware, aligned, and in connection with the surroundings. Innovative techniques and being intimate with authenticity are necessary.

There are both cultural and systematic ingredients in creativity. There should also be a set of principles to live by to promote originality within an organisation. Although not always successful, experimental programs are a driving force to promote creativity. An easy-to-understand idea and inventing new ways to think about different aspects are important, which is again very important to promote cultural diversity in the workplace and encourage others towards authenticity. All senses of a person need to come together for a truly creative idea to be born. Of course, changes were deemed necessary too, as time is ever changing itself. Listening more to the employees and trying to think like them is a desired change. Doing more than what’s already being done should be the aim for those who want to be driven by innovation and creativity. Owning out the problems within opens the door to creativity

Pursuit for perfection can be a hindrance to creativity. Culture is important but building a culture which promotes innovation is tough. In such cases, diversity helps. There will always be different perspectives. By acknowledging everyone’s unique traits with positivity and only then creativity will flourish. Creativity has to be nurtured. Leaders have a responsibility to facilitate such an environment. Creativity is not bound by time. Ideas can pass by at any moment regardless of the time and place. It pays to be aware of such moments. Constant practice and embracing all ideas can work as a way to solve a problem as a leader.

Why Corporate Governance is Key for Sustained Business Growth

Anis A. Khan, Director, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI); Chairman, Valor of Bangladesh, moderated this session. The discussion contained insights from industry experts like Barrister Nihad Kabir, Chairperson, BUILD & Former President, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI); Shehzad Munim, Managing Director, British American Tobacco Bangladesh; Nuzhat Anwar, Senior Country Officer, IFC – International Finance Corporation Bangladesh; Deepal Abeywickrema, Managing Director, Nestlé Bangladesh Ltd.

In this topic of discussion, various goals and aspects for future growth were appraised. It included plans for sustained growth, such as the IFCs intention to invest more in corporate governance. According to experts, sustainability requires corporate governance in Bangladesh to be improved significantly. It was also mentioned that promoting sustainability allows organisations to prosper further and gain recognition which in turn motivates others to follow the same path. Corporate governance has evolved with time. Corporate governance has multiple streams, and putting them all together means growth and sustainability for organisations. – Extended survivability requires good corporate governance. Big companies pursue corporate governance because it affects the share prices and stakeholders. If the next generation doesn’t pay attention to corporate governance, they really will not be able to pay attention to other aspects, and thus progress and sustainability will be halted. Good governance shapes the capital market.

It was signified that integrity, Compliance, Transparency, and Equity are vital ingredients for sustainability. Corporate governance holds the value of public confidence. Accountability and transparency are the two most vital elements of sustainability. Growth can only come when a brand is trusted. Such trust is gained through good corporate governance.

Inauguration of The first Ever Bangladesh C-Suite Awards

This year alongside the 6th Leadership Summit, Bangladesh Brand Forum organised the first ever Bangladesh C-Suite Awards.

This highly respected award honoured corporate executives in Bangladeshi business who exemplify integrity, insist upon excellence, earn the trust of others, and has built a competitive organisation.

A distinguished advisory board rigorously judged over 100 nominations from 30+ organisations and selected the honourees. Finally, the prestigious award was given in 16 distinguished categories to 16 Top Executives of Bangladesh.

In the opening speech of the gala, The Founder and Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum, Shariful Islam, said, “Bangladesh C-Suite Awards 2022 will pursue the vision of developing the next transformative senior leaders for Bangladesh. The award is designed to serve two purposes. First, to recognise the C-level professionals who are performing exceedingly well. Second, share their story, insight, journey and approach to the next generation of leaders, who will feel inspired to emulate them and be even better.”

The gala night was attended by more than 350 business leaders, experts, and professionals. The very first edition of Bangladesh C-Suite Awards received a great response. More than 100 submissions from around 30 companies were made in the first edition of the award.

Bangladesh Brand Forum also launched their new bimonthly publication, ‘CEO Review,’ and a training initiative, ‘leadership academy,’ to provide inspiration & insight to high potential & future leaders.

An initiative of Bangladesh Brand forum, this year’s Leadership Summit and  Bangladesh C-Suite Awards 2022 were powered by United Group; in association with Team Group, The Daily Star & Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dhaka (MCCI). The event was supported by Beximco Pharma. The Strategic Partner for the event- Mind Mapper Bangladesh, Knowledge partner– Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB), Learning & Development Partner – Bangladesh Organization for Learning & Development (BOLD), Technology Partner – Aamra Technologies Limited, PR Partner – Backpage PR, Academia Partner – Leadership Academy.An initiative of Bangladesh Brand forum, this year’s Leadership Summit and  Bangladesh C-Suite Awards 2022 were powered by United Group; in association with Team Group, The Daily Star & Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dhaka (MCCI). The event was supported by Beximco Pharma. The Strategic Partner for the event- Mind Mapper Bangladesh, Knowledge partner– Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB), Learning & Development Partner – Bangladesh Organization for Learning & Development (BOLD), Technology Partner – Aamra Technologies Limited, PR Partner – Backpage PR, Academia Partner – Leadership Academy.

Author- Mohammad Sifat

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