Mohammad Zuhair has recently completed the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge 2018 Fall Course.

Mohammad has over twenty years of working experience across multiple companies. After taking a new position at the Hadji Kalla Foundation, an NPO in Indonesia, he felt a strong difference between the approaches of NPOs versus the non-NPOs where he had been working up until that point. He felt the need to stay relevant in his thinking, and this pushed him to gain new knowledge through the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program. He aims to apply the skills and knowledge that he has gained during the program, especially from his experiences in the Thailand module, to improve the sustainability of his own foundation’s programs for the future.

―What was your reason for wanting to study on the Global Leaders for Innovation and Knowledge program?

I saw an advertisement for the program in a newspaper. As the program doesn’t have an age restriction upper limit, it was instantly very attractive for me. I had reached a point in my life where I felt that I wanted to study again, and I felt the need to be relevant in the current global environment. Some of the subjects that were taught in the program, I had studied before. But other subjects, such as philosophy and ethnography, were completely new to me. I am always eager to learn something new, experience something new, and therefore I felt that the program was right for me. When I realized the program doesn’t have an age limit, is focused in a relatively short period of time, offers a rich amount of new skills and knowledge, the choice was basically made for me.

―Would you feel that these courses like philosophy and ethnography gave you new ways of looking at things?

The philosophy course was especially difficult for me. The lecturer would spend a long time explaining different subjects, and it was definitely not as easy as the other subjects to grasp. But, even though they were not easy to understand, at least the lesson learnt is that there are some other perspectives that you need to consider when dealing with any kind of issue. These subjects taught me how to look not only from my perspective, but also from the perspective of others. Especially for ethnography, I wasn’t aware that experts in this field are also actively employed in the business world to help companies to understand the customer. We need these people in Indonesia, but I don’t think Indonesia has realized this yet. It will definitely be interesting to discuss this in the future and try to apply it.

―What are to you the differences in qualities and visions required for leaders in profit and non-profit organizations? Did the program change or influence these visions?

I think that the major difference between profit and non-profit organizations is that we have a different focus. But in terms of managing the organization, I don’t think there are many differences. When you manage a profit organization, of course the monetary aspect is the most important, whereas this is not the case for non-profit organizations. The beneficiary becomes the most important aspect.

The program offered us different concepts of leadership through all the subjects, not only the ones that were directly focused on leadership. Through these different visions, I learned that there are different styles of leaders, and that they all have different situations in which they are most suitable. And I definitely want to apply this knowledge to my own leadership activities back in Indonesia.

―From your position as an NPO Executive Director, and with about 20 years of business experience, how was it learning all these new perspectives on leadership?

To go into detail on what I mentioned earlier: I still remember this from the lecture on leadership in Hawaii, where we discussed the different types of leadership styles. They conducted a survey in which we were all categorized in one of the leadership styles. I didn’t know before that for certain situations, for example my usual style of leadership may not have been the most effective. Therefore, in the future when I will encounter those situations in which it is best to change my style of leadership, I will definitely want to try to apply one of the other styles, to adjust my own style and achieve the best results.


―How do you think your interaction with your classmates during the program has benefited you, and your goals for your project?

On the first day I explained to my classmates that I wanted to stay relevant and that I wanted to learn from them. Through interacting with my classmates, I felt that I learned the ways how to interact better with my own younger staff. I learnt more about the younger generation’s interests and their ways of thinking, which was very valuable to me.

As I have studied in Australia and lived in Qatar for periods of my life, I’m used to working with people from different backgrounds. But it was definitely interesting to see how some people who didn’t have that background adjusted themselves to their new surroundings. We all tried to adjust ourselves to each other’s background to make the discussions as smooth as possible, and to make sure that every voice in the room was heard. Especially the efforts I learned to make from these experiences in making sure that everyone’s voice is heard, is something I want to further apply in my company.

―How did the different types of classes that the program offered help you address your project?

My Capstone Project is about bringing awareness to the issues that our NPO has been facing, and to try to see it from an academic point of view. We had multiple classes that would work with the concepts of problem solving, or the idea of applied knowledge to solve issues. The experiences we had in Thailand were very similar to things that are going on in my organization. The project in Thailand was centered around an NPO, which we are too. They have been taking very similar approaches and have conducted very similar activities. However, as they have been in existence longer, they have more experience and are more systematic in their business transactions and problem solving than we are at the moment. Therefore, to develop my knowledge I had a lot of discussions, especially with one of the program directors.

There are two issues that I raise in my Capstone Project, one is about planning, and the other is about the sustainability of my NPO’s activities after a project has been executed and it is time to move on to something else, so the Thailand module definitely helped me get new insights to further tackle and develop these two issues.

―Could you say that the NPO that you saw in action can be seen as an example for what you want to do in your Hadji Kalla Foundation and its projects in the future?

Yes absolutely. They have proven themselves, they received multiple awards for their efforts, and receive thousands of visitors who want to learn from their experiences. To us, they are like a living proof that I strongly agree with. Their approach is not so complicated but is founded by perseverance to make their goals happen.

The foundation started thirty years ago, when they organized multiple initiatives against opium addictions in the region. After thirty years they managed to create a huge difference in terms of the people, prosperity, and education. They showed us the actual conditions after thirty years that reconfirmed their skills and efforts. From them I would like to take over central strategies that I can apply to my own NPO. In this case, the ideas of community development are especially interesting.

The major difference between their NPO and my NPO, is that they could stay in the environment for a long time, supporting the locals. In our case, we didn’t have the space nor the time to stay that long. Also, I have to admit that we had not paid enough attention to the development of long-term strategies up until the present day, therefore we didn’t plan sufficiently how long we should be in a certain place, and what would be the outcome of us staying longer or shorter. This is something that I definitely want to focus on in the future.

―What would you say is the most important thing that you learned in the program?

When I think about the positive effects of all the modules in general: knowing more about the business in Japan and its culture, seeing a good example of the NPO foundation activities in Thailand, and witnessing how a strong leader managed to win a struggle in a region with few resources, these things are definitely the most important lessons I learnt from the program. I also feel that the experience itself, studying again after eighteen years, has had an enormous impact on me.

―What are your future goals?

As for my immediate actions, I would like to see a better long-term planning for my team, so that our program can develop to become more sustainable for the beneficiaries. As for my long-term views, I hope that our foundation will have grown to be sustainable, so that they can further sustain the funding for the foundation, so that we can optimize our beneficiaries in terms of the location and the numbers of people we help. I hope that Indonesia will have become a developed country, so that we can start helping people from other neighboring countries through our own experiences.

―Any tips for future applicants?

I think you can learn something positive from all of the modules.

In Japan everything is very punctual, on the other hand, the Hawaiian approach is more flexible, the other modules in Thailand and Singapore are also quite different in their approach. Make sure that you will be prepared to adjust to these different environments.

This program is very unique and interesting, if you are looking for knowledge and experience, and a balanced blend between experiences from different cultures, then this is the best program for you.

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