Photo above: Joshua (second from left) with his teammates after concluding their preparations for a presentation.
Name: Joshua Khoo
Course/University: BSc Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Experience: Participant at the Global Leader Experience Kuala Lumpur 2015
The Common Purpose Global Leader Experience brings together a mix of students from about 25 nationalities in a magnet city to propose innovative solutions to tackle a global issue.
This year, the theme revolves around the question, “What makes a city smart?”
The intensive four-day programme started with key stakeholders providing a macro view of issues related to the theme. Participants were then sent for separate immersion visits to various organisations to see their take on the issue. At the end of the day, everyone gathered their thoughts about the visits to contribute towards formulating a solution to building a smart city.
I had the privilege of attending this programme from which I derived some insights into leadership I believe must be experienced by any aspiring leader.
These are the three key learning points I took away from the programme.
1. Understanding ourselves
Understanding ourselves starts with us discovering and accepting who we are as individuals and our relationship with our community.
Vicky Treadell, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia shared that it was through understanding her own background that she was able to connect with people who were foreign to her.
This gave her confidence. It also nurtured her ability to empathise; a quality she believes is the hallmark of a good leader.
2. Understanding others
The programme exposed us to diversity. Participants were not only culturally diverse, but we were all training in different disciplines and each held a different mode of thinking.
Having taken part at two different immersion visits, all of us held strong views and a deep conviction for our ideals.
When we came together as a group, we brought all of our ideas and distilled them to propose one solution for tackling an issue. This heavily relied on our ability as leaders to synergise with each other; so the challenge became an apparent test of our leadership competencies.
It takes leaders with a certain level of cultural awareness to appreciate the diversity of thoughts, understand each viewpoint and guide the group towards coming out with solutions. A team works at its best when members feel valued, and a competent leader is one who understands and enables his/her team.
3. Understanding the system
There are many problems we face daily that can be attributed to structural inefficacy. However, I find that the biggest problem is our perceived inability to solve these problems. It takes a deep understanding of the way things work so that we can work in tandem with the system to solve problems.
While most people moan the poor quality of our national education and think that change can only be effected top-down, Teach for Malaysia, an NGO (non-governmental organisation) which champions education, created the change they wanted to see by understanding the system and working with it from the bottom-up.
While we may not be in the authority to make legislative changes, change is still possible. It is inspiring to see groups of people finding solutions to act on the causes they believe in. Truly, by understanding ourselves, others and the system, we can impact so much change.