Positive Leadership

Activating Purpose Mindsets (with Akhtar Badshah)

November 08, 2021 Jean-Philippe Courtois Season 2 Episode 2
Positive Leadership
Activating Purpose Mindsets (with Akhtar Badshah)
Show Notes Transcript

Every one of us has a purpose mindset – a true desire to do good and to contribute to society’s wellbeing. But how do you activate it, both in yourself and in those you lead, so that you can make a real impact?
Listen to JP’s conversation with old friend and colleague, Akhtar Badshah, to find out.

JP: Hey. Good morning, good evening and welcome back to the Positive Leadership Podcast. This is JP, Jean Philippe. Very excited to have you listening to this episode. I will be joined by a special person, Akhtar Badshah, an author, a teacher at the University of Washington and also a consultant help companies accelerating social impact. At the same time, he’s also been a leader for many decades, inspiring teams across the world to join him in his missions. I think you’ll get some great insights out of our conversation so let’s get started. Hello Akhtar and welcome to the Positive Leadership Podcast. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Thank you very much Jean Philippe. I am really looking forward to it. 

JP: You know it’s been always a pleasure to speak to you for many years, because we usually discuss one of my favourite topics, which is purpose. And we first met when you were at Microsoft, and of course I’m in Microsoft, as you know, for a number of years, and at the time you were leading our global philanthropy team or community investment work for a decade when I was running at the time the international business of Microsoft over the world. So we have many opportunities to discuss what it takes to actually enable such countries around the world. Since then you’ve done many things, including writing a great book, The Purpose Mindset. You are also teaching social innovation at the University of Washington and you’ve founded a consulting company as well to help companies accelerate their social impact. But even before your Microsoft life, you had another life, or many lives as well, and you’ve been really focussing on solving issues for communities around the world, working in urban development first I think, then in the early 2000s before anyone was really talking about digital economy, you were at the digital parlours helping digital entrepreneurs to bring tech, PC-based solutions to under-served communities in India, Africa and Latin America. And you started to finish with as an architect and designer as well, by the way, so that’s a pretty wonderful mix of experiences you’ve been through. Lots of different lives, as I love to say, Akhtar. But there’s, I think, a very obvious red thread connecting them. SO tell us about your journey and why did you decide to make supporting global and local communities your own purpose, Akhtar?


AKHTAR BADSHAH: Jean Philippe, thank you very much. You know, I think, I came to MIT after graduating from architecture to the US. For me that was winning a lottery. I mean, a young kid from India getting admission at MIT, getting a visa, getting a scholarship. These were all just like winning a life lottery to come. And my intention was to study and become a practising architect. I had visions of becoming like Le Corbusier, you know, some of the famous European, American, Western architects. But life took a different path, because while I was studying there, I got introduced to this whole new world of low cost housing, built environment and then my Dean at that time, Bill Porter, was working on a project for the Aga Khan programme. MIT had an Aga Khan programme for Islamic architecture and he eventually asked me to come and help him design a new Masters programme called Designing for Islamic Societies. And that just moved me into a whole new field. I mean, I was just a student. I was the runner boy. He was doing the work and saying ok go do this for me, go do that for me. But that experience then got me to teach at MIT and that opened up a whole new world of thinking about architecture not as a building, but as something that actually is a living breathing organism and has impact on people’s lives, which includes communities, economies. So that kind of gave me a whole new experience of how to think about what architects can do. Some friends from the UN asked me to join a non profit at that time that was launched by them called Mega Cities Project, so I decided to join that after teaching for a decade at MIT. And my wife had joined Microsoft at that time in 1993. She moved to Seattle in 1998, so I came as a trailing spouse. And there I started working on Digital Partners Foundation, this whole idea of bridging the digital divide, which was in 1999 and 2000, so very early on, which then got me into the Microsoft orbit, you know with Brad Smith and Pamela Bassman, and they asked me to join the company and run the philanthropy team. So for me the underlying thread is, for me, it has never been who I want to be. I started off by I want to be an architect. 

JP: Clearly. But you kind of lost that thread. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Because the thread moved to not who I want to be, but who I want to serve. I will serve to start a new programme. I would start a whole new initiative around bridging the digital divide. I went to Microsoft clearly not expecting to serve as the Head of Global Philanthropy. Jean Philippe if you remember at that time in 2003, it was almost the evil empire. 

JP: It was. I remember that vividly.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: And my goal was to bridge the company to the non-profit community. 

JP: Right.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I came to serve that. And then with your guidance, with your support, we kind of did that. We brought the non-profit community into the Microsoft ecosystem. And today we are probably the most well-liked company in that ecosystem. 

JP: Indeed, Akhtar. I must say, the work you did was foundational, because today we are enabling 3000 NGOs around the world, taking advantage obviously of free cloud services to enable them to  do more and have a positive impact. And I think it started all the way back at your time, so fantastic foundation. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: I think that… So you kind of asked… For me, very early on, it shifted from I need to be this, to I need to serve in these capacities. And that’s where the discovery of purpose started coming in. 

JP: Good. Very clear and very well said, Akhtar. And purpose is really also a common theme in the first season of my podcast. I got a few people I think you know well, like Kevin Johnson, who is also a local in Seattle. He is the President and CEO of Starbucks. And Kevin, you know, he shared with me that he envisioned, of course, Starbucks to be a third place for the community to gather, so it’s really about that place. You talk about place to be with, you know, the urban projects you work on, but what you do with the place for communities to to have a, you know, to have a real meaning beyond a place. I also had the pleasure to host Vincent Stanley, who is a wonderful person and Director of Philosophy at Patagonia. I'm sure you may have bumped into him as well. And clearly, you know, both of them and many others are all articulating what it takes to become a responsible company deeply, truly, what it means. But the conversations I had with them and others really have shown me as well that being purpose driven is not that easy, and there’s been a lot of discussion, as you know well, in large companies about balancing profit and purpose, and businesses manage that tension all the time. So I really wanted to talk to you about something a little different today - managing that tension in yourself, ok? As a person, as an individual, especially if you, you know, if you get into the shoes of being a leader or an entrepreneur at the beginning of your journey, because I remember I heard you saying once, Akhtar, it’s difficult to think about making money and creating a stable company and thinking about giving away money at the same time. This is hard. And so, you know, as someone who has done so much work on the purpose mindset, what is the advice that you like to share with leaders who want to be more purpose driven but might be struggling to achieve that inner balance I just talked about? 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So this is this is great, right? And Starbucks is a phenomenal example. You've done Patagonia, right? Both are just extraordinary examples where Howard Schultz created a company. Because we go to Starbucks because of an experience, right? It it is an experience. The barista that works there smiles at you. They talk to you. They are there because they have a purpose to make you happy, right? And that's why you go there. And that's why you go there. Of course you get good coffee, but just because you get good coffee doesn't mean that it becomes a place that you identify as the third place.

JP: Indeed. Yeah

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Patagonia people actually wear Patagonia, and Patagonia tells you not to throw away your jacket. 

JP: Yeah, you keep it to all of your life.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: And repair it.

JP: And repair it again. Yes. Yes. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So the issue for me is that… We… What I want people to understand is that purpose is the soul of the company. It is the why. It's the why for you as an individual and why for the company. It is the soul of the company and purpose does not become amplified just because you're giving away money. You can write a check without having a purpose. 

JP: Yeah, indeed. That’s right.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Purpose is not about philanthropy. Purpose is about how have you created the company and what is the reason for the company? And then how does everybody that is employed in company show up. How are you showing up? You know, Satya, you know, in my book kind of says, Look, are we just going to extract from people or as a company, we are actually making their lives better if our technology makes people's lives better. And if we show up every day for work to do that, then I think we will thrive as a company and that then becomes the purpose. But if you're waking up every day and of course, we do wake up every day, people that are in the sales and you know, the amount of pressure you have to generate revenue. But if all you're focusing on is generating revenue, then you miss the bigger picture of why the company exists. So I think for individuals, every individual, whether you're starting a small company, whether you're part of a large company, look deeper beyond the specific work that you're doing as to why is your work, how is it helping people and making their lives better? And if you can do that, then you're activating purpose. You know, Satya, you know, in my book kind of says, Look, are we just going to extract from people or as a company. We are actually making their lives better. If our technology makes people's lives better and if we show up every day for work to do that, then I think we will thrive as a company and that then becomes the purpose. But if you're waking up every day and of course, we do wake up every day, people that are in the sales and you know the amount of pressure you have to generate revenue. But if all you're focusing on is generating revenue, then you miss the bigger picture of why the company exists. So I think for individuals, every individual, whether you're starting a small company, whether you're part of a large company, look deeper beyond the specific work that you're doing as to why is your work, how is it helping people and making their lives better? And if you can do that, then you're activating purpose. 

JP: This is so true, Akhtar. I mean, and you can certainly, you know, think deeply about your worlds and the way I been myself carried for thirty seven years by Microsoft with two missions, as you know well. So very clearly articulated and as we talk about empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more, we really mean a way to connect our mission with the customer's mission too. That's the highest level I can think about when we are trying to deliver the full digital transformation of the customer, whatever the industry is. It could be also an NGO, by the way, as I said before, enabling them to achieve more. And I think that that has really added a lot of meaningful, I would say, insights, inspiration to our people as they go about our company in their jobs every day. So Akhtar, I just so recently actually very interesting survey by Edelman about what they call the belief driven employee, and that survey talks about the pandemic as a great opportunity, despite, of course, all the adversity of that time, for people to reflect on their priorities. And that survey showed that six out of 10 employees choose their employer based on beliefs and would refuse to work for a company that they disagree with on social issues. And you've talked about this before. How people today are increasingly looking for opportunities to contribute to something bigger, greater than themselves. And if you look at the survey again, it's very interesting. This is on top of the seventy one percent of the people that say they will lose trust in the brand forever if they think the brand is putting profit over people. So clearly, a purpose driven mindset is something leaders and their companies really need to address if they want to connect deeply, meaningfully, with their employees and their customers. So, I’d like you as a teacher, as a coach, to share with our listeners as they have teams where they might have inherited some team members, you know, who basically don't have a purpose mindset. They don't see it. They don't believe in it or they don't get it. How would you help someone else achieve a purpose mindset? What would you do? 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I believe that everybody has a purpose mindset. Every single person has a purpose mindset. And purpose mindset might not be activated, because for that particular point in time, we are driven by something else. What the pandemic did is that it affected every single person on earth, right? There is not a single person that actually escaped, because we all know somebody or the other that either lost a job or fell sick or had family members pass away. So it wasn't that, Oh, it's happening somewhere else. That allowed people to reflect and say, Oh, I am vulnerable. And in this limited time, I need to make sure that I am contributing to the wellbeing of society. So whether it's the Edelman survey, the McKinsey just did a survey, it shows the exact same thing. Called on purpose has done the survey. And what I have tried to highlight and what I am doing now in my practice is run these purpose mindset discovery workshops for teams, where we are actually taking them to a two hour process, where we are getting them to reignite their purpose and getting them to write a purpose statement and then taking those statements and then aligning it to the group's purpose and then coming back and saying, this is how, as a group, we will work to achieve it. That allows individuals to amplify their purpose and the group to amplify its purpose. And that, you know, we've just done that for several organisations. And the results are phenomenal. And these are very senior people from the executive leadership team that have gone through this two hour session with me. A time to look down inside us and say, why am I doing what I'm doing right? And to just get that opportunity to write that and share it with your colleagues and start seeing the connections shifts the mindset of that group and the individuals. So in my book, I articulate these five principles.

JP: Would you mind sharing them, Akhtar? 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Yes. So the first one is work from your… Discover your strengths and work from your strengths. 

JP: Start with your strengths. Always. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH:  We all kind of focus on what is the problem? Instead, look at the solution you want to seek. The world that you want to live in and aspire to that and then work with your strengths. Very hard for people to actually write down their strengths. 

JP: It is.

AKHTAR BADSHAH:  So discover your strengths. The second is have a lens of abundance. We always work through the frame of scarcity. I don't have this. Just if I had that, but go do it. Start. Start somewhere and it will snowball. You will collect people with you. It is not about doing things the right way. It is about doing the right thing. And by the way, Kevin Johnson said this to me once. Very long time ago. He said don't focus on doing things the right way. Focus on the right thing to do. It is not about efficiency. It is about effectiveness.

JP: It’s very wise, yes.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: And that's the third principle. The fourth is, you should be creating movements, not organisations. I've never seen Microsoft as a company. I have seen Microsoft as a movement. The company is the vessel that propels that movement. 

JP: Absolutely. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: But if you think of movements, then the skillset you need is not about managing. The skill sets you need is about synchronisation. And that's a very different skillset to have in an executive leadership team. You're no longer managing people. You're actually synchronising their desires, their purpose, and pushing that so that it becomes a movement and movement brings people along with you. 

JP: Yes, it’s powerful. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: And then the fifth principle is all about moving on that path, from generosity to empathy to compassion. And hopefully you've done that incredibly well, of being on that path from empathy to compassion. You know, Kailash Satyarthi with the Nobel Peace Prize winner from India, you know, shared with me that, you know, compassion is when you get to the absolute centre where you are willing to lay down your life for somebody that you don't know because you believe in that person. Yeah, most of us are not going to do that. You know, the Dalai Lama, Kailash Satyarthi, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, you know, all of these Nobel Peace Prize winners can do it. However, each one of us can be on that journey where they shift the focus from the me to the collective we. And by focusing on the collective, we now we actually think about the common good. So when a group is asking a question, how do I generate more revenue? The question should be, how do I service the customer, the community, in a much better way? And if you take that as an approach, then revenues just follow.

JP: Absolutely. No, I think it's wonderful more than advice, wonderful philosophy, Akhtar. I can see you actually teaching that, coaching that, not just to students - we will come back to that later - but also to senior executives on synchronising actually the purpose of their people one by one into a collective meaning. That’s that's so powerful. Akhtar, I also heard you talking about the difference between passion and purpose. Can you explain that difference to listeners? Because I think there are some nuances which are very important to capture. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Yeah, so you know, when I came to Microsoft, that's really where I started distinguishing this. People would walk into my door every day, every single day somebody would come into my door and say, Hey, I have a passion to change the world. Can you give me a job? And I would always wonder that if you have a passion to change the world, why do you need me? Just go change the world.

JP: Exactly.


AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I never understood that, until I started kind of figuring out that we are actually using the wrong terminology. So we being so inculcated with the growth mindset, which is Carole Dweck's seminal work, and we should have a growth mindset. But what has happened in that growth mindset is that we've got focused on the duality. It's me, the individual. I have a purpose. I have a passion. And what drives everything instead? So, yes, growth mindset, your growth, company’s growth, your growth, company’s growth, which is a duality. But purpose is when you shift the duality from not who I want to be, to who I want to serve. Now you're introducing a trinity, a trinity of the community, that you are here to serve the greater good, and in doing so, you grow, and in doing so, the business grows and the community has more impact, right? This whole conversation of what you are doing with AI for Good is all about that, that the only way Microsoft will thrive is AI, Artificial intelligence, is not for the benefit of the company to make more money, but it is for the benefit of society to become much better and thrive. And if you can figure that out, then resources follow just in a normal case. So for me, passion is a very personal thing. Purpose is a much more giving aspect of giving yourself in the service of others.


JP: Fantastic, fantastic. And so well said, Akhtar. You know, just adding a little bit more of your vision there. You've been using also a couple of words that really got me intrigued as well. You said, you know, we need to build bridging networks, not just bonding networks. Can you share what you have in mind with those bridging networks? 


AKHTAR BADSHAH:  Yeah. So you know the work that was done, seminal work done by Robert Putnam wrote the book Bowling Alone, where he actually looked at how societies have got frayed because our bonds have started fraying. So bonding is birds of a feather flock together. I mean, it's a simple way of putting it right. We all like to connect with people that we know we empathise with. Whether I, you know, commiserate with the Indian community here in Seattle. Or I, you know, I'm a Microsoft team, so I talk to Microsoft people. I'm a technology guy, so I talk to technologists. But instead… And that is all important. Of course it is important. But what is more important today is how do we get out of our comfort zone and bridge across to somebody who we don't agree with? And find common ground and find ways by which conversations can take place. And that bridging in this multiethnic, multiracial, globalised world, bridging is what is going to allow humanity to thrive. Otherwise, we will start collapsing into these very small, self-contained environments, and unfortunately, social media has amplified that ability for us to create our own echo chambers.

JP: Oh yes, absolutely. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: And and how do we move out of that? And it was done for a good reason. Hey, you know, I love potted plants or I will be in a group that wants to talk about potted plants. But then within that, you are now not talking to anybody else. And how do we break that? And this is also what is happening with our kids. So bridging networks, I think, are very important. If, as a community, as a society, we want to continue to value what we value most, which is humanity is driven by a sense of purpose for good. Nobody wakes up… There might be a few people who wake up and say, I want to go harm somebody. And bridging networks allows us to do that. 

JP: No, I think it's a great vision and obviously more than a vision, something that can happen when people again are intentional about building those bridges between those communities and ways of engaging on common opportunities. So Akhtar, I'd like to shift gears and talk about your insight as a faculty professor. You know, clearly I've been wondering about this new generation of leaders we see and you see in the university as you teach. Do you see that generation having more purpose mindset than all generational older generations? I was just speaking recently on my podcast to such a young leader, Pierre Dubuc is his name, he’s the CEO of OpenClassrooms. He started that when he was 13 years old with a very bold purpose to really make education accessible to all. And so that made me really feel optimistic about that generation. I've seen many more, of course, in the social entrepreneurship community, as you can imagine. So I would like to ask you, do you see that as a pattern for this new generation being more purpose led in everything they do?

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I kind of answered it in a slightly different way. I don't see… Surveys that have been done amongst people in any organisation, one third are driven by purpose, one third are driven by money and one third are driven by status. And that has not changed. What has changed is that in today's world, because of all of these opportunities that we have through technology, through social media, there is more opportunities for individuals to activate their purpose as a secondary driver. So what we are seeing is many more people in that conversation, but it wasn't that in the 1960s, there weren't people that were starting non-profit organisations and mission driven entities, right? We've all gone through our friends who basically dropped out and started something to change the world. So that has not changed. What has changed is the ability for all of them to connect with these folks and support them and be part of it. So that has changed. And what that is doing is that in the classroom, the expectation then is to also have that conversation even in the business school. Right? So people will say, yeah, I might still be wanting to make money, but I want to understand the purpose part. I want to learn about social enterprise. I want to learn about these things so that I can become a better individual as I participate in whichever avenue I want to, but I'm not just going to be boxed into one thing.

JP: So you see them really raising the bar in the sense of being more complete, right? More balance, more balance in the way they want to build their own growth and success being defined a bit differently than probably what it was in the past in terms of having more harmony between the three pieces you talked about. I guess about both, you talk about money, you talk about career and you talk about purpose as well.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Correct. So it kind of goes back to the earlier point that I'm making that more and more people are not just seeing themselves as having a job. Even if you are an engineer, you're not just an engineer, you're more than an engineer, a software engineer, you're more than an architect. You're more than a doctor, you're more than a lawyer. So people are kind of infusing that service component into their work. And that is showing out in… We’re clearly seeing that at Microsoft, right? More and more employees are engaged in doing community work. Yes, they want to volunteer their time. They want the company to support them to do this. They want to go out and do other things while working in the company. Roberto, who started this whole effort around, you know, his his app with kids. I mean, it's all happened because the company provided him with space to do that.

JP: Absolutely. Yeah. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I think we are seeing more of that. 

JP: Yeah. So there is more of that happening in more companies in the world, as well embracing that new reality I think of that of that strong belief. I think that the youngest have expressed probably more, you know, more vocally, I think, than in the past probably.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: I mean, you know, I had only a few opportunities, right? I had a black and white TV and I had a bus to travel in. Today, our kids have… They can be anywhere in the world in a moment. So their experiences are much richer.

JP: For sure. I mean, the world has changed. Now just building on that connection we have with students, Akhtar, can you share some of the things you learned from them, from this new generation? 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: You can't bullshit, and I say that because… Let me, let me restate it. As a faculty member previously, when you went into the classroom, you were the most educated and you were imparting knowledge. It was one way. You spoke, everybody listened and observed and took it in. Today, people come in much more informed because of access. So as a faculty member, you now have to realise that yes, you may have expertise, but what you're going to do is have conversations and it is not a one way street. I'm not sitting there like the royal me and lecturing, but I am the instrument. I'm the conduit to share experiences.

JP: Yeah. So it's really about leaving that experience with them and providing some context so that they can build their own insights on the way, I guess. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH:  Right. So you want to be inclusive. There are certain things that you want to make sure about. You know, today we are talking about diversity and inclusion quite a lot, equity, women's empowerment. You know, I've got much more focused on being very careful and bringing a lot of women leaders into my classroom from companies, because there are many more women students who actually want those folks as role models. So things have changed in terms of how, as a faculty member, you provide instruction. 

JP: Yeah, yeah. Well, it's great again takeaways you have from your experience with students, which and I found the same myself, you know, certainly in my foundation, engaging a lot with youths and and intervening more as a crutch as opposed to a teacher in my interactions. Now let's talk about again, come back to the business and again, the business accountabilities. There's been there was a great book I read a little while ago that you may know, Prosperity by Colin Mayer, where Colin Mayer talks about the five pillars needed to lead an enlightened cooperation. That's what he called them. Of course, it's about human human capital, buildings and machinery, natural capital, social capital and financial capital. So can you tell us how can a business really succeed at those five dimensions together? And what are the the real innovative practices you've seen across the corporate world, because you are engaging with many large enterprises that you could share in terms of that balancing act across those five dimensions?

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So this is great and Colin Mayer has done phenomenal job with articulating, you know, how you actually think about purpose and profits and what it means in today's world. So there is this very interesting survey, it’s again done by McKinsey and Cohn on purpose that show that 84 to 85 percent of senior leadership in a company believe that the company has a purpose and they are being asked to execute on it. The reverse is true when you actually talk about the rank and file. 85 percent of employees don't believe the company has a purpose, and it acts on its purpose. So what is happening is that the focus is on the leadership and not on the rank and file employees and bringing them along. So if you want to succeed on those five dimensions, then you've got to go much deeper into the company. 

JP: I still see probably too many leader’s companies failing at purpose. So what is your view on that and what is your guidance on how to reset or light up that purpose joy for those companies? 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: I think every company is on a different journey on the path to purpose. What we need to find are these very simple acts of accelerants. Right? How do you provide that little push, which is not too… So when I do my purpose mindset workshops, it's like a jolt that I give to the system. But it's only a very short jolt. If I actually ask the company to say, I need your leaders to give me two days, there’s nobody going to do that. If I ask Satya to say, Hey, you have 130 people, I need two days of their time, you know, somebody is going to make a financial calculation and say that is this much, you know, that's $700 million of time wasted. So you have to kind of figure out where are the right little jolts that you can give to keep pushing companies along. Movements only start with small levels of accelerants. There has to be some ignition that needs to happen. But if you actually say that I want to, my success is dependent on 100 million people showing up for a march, you failed. But if you can get 10 people to show up for your first march and then a hundred and ten thousand and then ten thousand. So I think that's the part I want companies to look at. You don’t have solve everything right away. Start. Start somewhere. Make small steps. That's what Microsoft did. Bill had a vision, yeah, but took a very small step and it was less than a thousand people as a company. If we had sat down at that time and said, Oh, by the way, Bill, in 40 years, you will be spending $200 million in cash for employee giving. He would immediately say, No, no, no, no. We cannot do this. Right. So that's what I kind of give encouragement to people that I work with. Even startups start. Start something. 

JP: Get it started.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Get it started. Start in one group, start in one team and then you will see things happen, but make it visible. The people see in the company that at the leadership level, you are focused on it.

JP: And it matters. I mean, this is great advice, Akhtar, to get started to do a small step and celebrate those first steps as you get as you get success on the way.  I think both of you, Akhtar and me, I still I still do, have been working, of course, for this very special company, a tech company, Microsoft and and I knew that in your early days as well referred to that in the introduction, you've been supporting social entrepreneurs with IT PC enablement and parliament. And so I'd like to ask you a question about how do you see technology in 2021 empowering positive leadership and a positive impact in the business and broader community and how that has evolved, of course, coming back to your 2000 years when you are doing that to 2021 today?

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So, you know, Jean Philippe, when we started with supporting a non-profit, it was all about, Let’s give them a PC or access to a PC, and they will get some knowledge, some information. We didn't even have internet, right. We were carrying PCs on donkeys into villages and putting it there. Today, you have it in your hand. The technology is in your hand, and it is not just about, I just need to learn how to use Word and Excel. Today it is about the applications. How is artificial intelligence predicting environment or soil conditions so that I can grow food better? Social entrepreneurs are going there.

JP: They are. Yeah.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Blockchain is being used to look at how do we ensure transactions are secure and in doing so, you can actually reduce financial waste and leakage. That is an impact. You are looking at kids and saying, I no longer want you to just think about Word, I actually want you to think about 3D printing. Because with 3D printing, you can actually change the way in which you come up with products, which may be prosthetics, which you've talked about, which could be building materials, which could be anything. I mean, today. 3D printing is being used to build a rocket to go to space. So how we think about technology has become so central to our lives. And what I worry about is that you have the super haves, people who understand this technology and the super have nots that have absolutely no idea this exists. And I think social entrepreneurs and people in Microsoft and others should become the bridges. They are the bridge that can actually translate this technology into use where it is needed most. Whether I get a 3D printed house or not is… It's great, but it is not life saving. But if you can actually get a 3D printed house for $10,000 for a person whose home has been destroyed by a hurricane or an earthquake? Wow. That's transformational. But they don't know how to do it. 

JP: It’s so right, Akhtar. As you said, technology is so much central to enabling all of those life changing scenarios and solutions. And this is what gets me inspired, obviously, with spending time, as you know, with social entrepreneurs in my home country, but also beyond my home country, Microsoft globally, which I love to do so. So last couple of questions, Akhtar, you know, I've been always inspired by the way purposely individuals can can help the people around them, and sometimes they just focus on very small, local things that can have an impact in the local village, community or locally. And sometimes they've got a bigger goal and they've got global scale, and they are trying as well to make a big difference again for the society. And so for you, I mean, as you've been yourself leading huge global projects in many dimensions, I said before, large companies, but also philanthropy organisations, are there some leadership qualities required when you are working on something which is very local as opposed to something that has a global ambition?

AKHTAR BADSHAH: So I think that there are certain qualities that are the same - have a purpose mindset. You've got to be able to really work with your strengths. You've got to have a lens of abundance. Focus on the effectiveness. But I always believe that we really shouldn't be pushing people to just focus on scale. I kind of give this analogy of a salmon and a whale. Either you can aspire to be a whale or you can be a salmon. But salmon are far more nourishing, nutritious and in abundance. So if you think about your small effort as a salmon, which can spawn other salmons, now you're getting spread versus scale, but both achieve similar kinds of impact. Now, some people are fine tuned to work in the way to become a whale. But others might be much better off functioning as a salmon and we need to recognise those skills in people so we don't push them into areas where they may not thrive. But if we can give them that contextual understanding of impact, then I think we succeed.

JP: So we can really help those changemakers to think about scale and having a bigger impact that's feasible. I think it's something I fully agree with you, and I've seen that with some young and less young social entrepreneurs and sometimes, you know, don't realise that they have the power to do that. And so I think that's a fantastic encouragement. Now coming back to purpose, almost to finish our discussion because the time has been flying fast, Akhtar, as we talk about purpose, we lose sense of the time. There was another great book, of course, written on purpose that you may have read it, The Purpose Revelation, by John Zissou and Jeff van der Felin. And you know, and they use actually some work done by Dr Amy Resnick at Yale University. And I think you referred to that saying there are really three ways you should think about purpose or you should think actually about a job. Sorry. About a job, right? There's job orientation, which is about money and security. There's the career orientation, which is about learning growth and there's the calling orientation where the job is not seen as a means to an end, but an end itself. And so how do you inspire people, Akhtar, to a point that they leave their jobs as a calling every day? Because that's huge. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: I think that, you know, also in my book, I've kind of profiled so many different people, hopefully to identify this journey, where some people started off as a journey of being in a career because of the individual situations where they wanted to have the status or they wanted to have the revenue and the resources and then ignited the purpose. Others come in because they see this as a calling, but every job cannot be a calling. I mean, the person who’s actually sitting in the printers, repairing, you know, fixing what is wrong with the software. That calling is very mundane. So what needs to inspire them by activating the secondary desires. Right? So somebody might come in and say, Look, I just need to earn money because I have no money. But then how do you say that the way you earn money is leading to a better world? And so if we can frame it in that perspective, which is why I believe that the purpose statements that I get people to write starts exemplifying that, by which actually has to do with your social entrepreneurs that you are supporting, Jean Philippe, at Microsoft. So that if we can get them to write that, then you can actually start saying, Hey, here is how you can achieve it, even though you want to earn revenue now.

JP: Yes, I love it. I love it, Akhtar. It has been a wonderful dialogue and so many insights Akhtar, and, you know, just finishing on our dialogue, clearly, when I think about myself, I'm trying myself to shape almost a practice of positive leadership, and I always think about the three circles of impact. I think about oneself right, and the way you create your self-confidence, self-awareness, managing your positive energy in yourself, I think about me and the others connecting, engaging, creating that positive energy with others, inspiring others to go beyond, to maybe get them a sense of calling. And the third circle that you've been so eloquent about, which is me and the world and what can I do? And where is my personal mission connected? The bigger impact I can have. Me, individually, as a person in that bigger picture. So it's been wonderful again to have this discussion. I’d like for all of the listeners, Akhtar, to thank you and to share actually my three takeaways. I love to do that for every podcast on the fly. That's why I took many notes, I can tell you. One. It's not about who I want to be. It's about who I want to serve. My second one is, as a leader, don’t manage but synchronise your people purpose. And the third one is, don't try just to build organisations, but build a movement. I don't know if I captured enough of your wisdom, Akhtar, but you made my day. 

AKHTAR BADSHAH: You absolutely did. And I'm so glad that you reiterated that because those are the three major points and I’d just like to end with one additional thought to your listeners. 

JP: Please.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Purpose is within us. It is just like a switch. If you turn it on, it illuminates darkness. It's like a smile. You smile, you light up a room. Purpose is that switch. It's there. Just turn it on.

JP: Love it. Love finishing on a smile and lighting up your days wherever you are in the world. Thanks for tuning in, listeners, to the Positive Leadership Podcast with, Akhtar. It was a delight, Akhtar, to be with you. Thank you so much and take care, please.

AKHTAR BADSHAH: Thank you very much.