Ranked in the top 1% of all podcasts globally!
July 8, 2021

Transforming a moment into a movement with a purpose mindset with Dr. Akhtar Badshah | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader

Transforming a moment into a movement with a purpose mindset with Dr. Akhtar Badshah | Partnering Leadership Global Thought Leader
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
Stitcher podcast player badge
TuneIn podcast player badge
Podchaser podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
Castbox podcast player badge
Deezer podcast player badge
PlayerFM podcast player badge
Audible podcast player badge
Podcast Addict podcast player badge
YouTube podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Dr. Akhtar Badshah, expert on social impact, philanthropy, CSR and international development, and author of The Purpose Mindset: How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World, shares impactful stories from his time heading Microsoft philanthropies and the many transformative movements Microsoft employees and alumni have started. He emphasizes that all it takes is a moment to recognize how we can bring change to our communities and turn it into a movement. 

Some highlights:

-Dr. Akhtar Badshah’s architecture background and how it shaped his view of the world

-Akhtar Badshah’s career heading Microsoft philanthropies and the community-engaging programs he oversaw

-Shifting from a ‘me’ to a ‘we’ mindset and how it breaks down barriers

-Recognize who you want to serve, not who you want to be

-Dr. Akhtar Badhsah on the 5 principles to develop a purpose mindset

-Taking a moment and bringing it into a movement: the inspiring stories of Microsoft employees and alumni Roberto D'Angelo & Francesca Fedeli, Trish Millines Dziko, Kevin Wang, Claire Bonilla, and more

-Practicing humility in philanthropy by ‘tasting the ground you’re going to walk on’

-What we can learn from the lives of Nobel Peace laureates 

-Akhtar Badshah on why compassion triumphs over passion

-Akhtar Badshah on finding your purpose and shining your light so others can shine too

Mentioned in this episode:

Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, investor, author, and philanthropist

Mary Gates, Bill Gates’ mother, businesswoman, civic activist, and school teacher

Bill Newcomb, former chief counsel at Microsoft

Bill Gates Sr., Bill Gates’ father, attorney, philanthropist, and civic leader

Jon Shirley, former president, chief operating officer, and director of Microsoft

Roberto D'Angelo and Francesca Fedeli, founders of FightTheStroke.org

Trish Millines Dziko, co-founder of the National Charter Collaborative and Executive Director of Technology Access Foundation

Kevin Wang, founder of Mentors in Tech and Microsoft TEALS

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Claire Bonilla, CEO of SightLife

Patrick Awuah, Ghanaian engineer, educator, entrepreneur, and founder of Ashesi University

Tazin Shadid, founder of AmarLab

Kailash Satyarthi, Indian social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, anti-apartheid revolutionary, philanthropist, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, civil society leader, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Tenzin Gyatso,14th Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Connect with Dr. Akhtar Badshah:

The Purpose Mindset: How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World on Amazon

Microsoft Website

Dr. Akhtar Badshah on LinkedIn

Dr. Akhtar Badshah on Instagram

Dr. Akhtar Badshah on Twitter

Connect with Mahan Tavakoli:


More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website: 



Mahan Tavakoli: 

Welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am really excited this week to be welcoming Akhtar Badshah. He's an expert on social impact, philanthropy, CSR international development. He led Microsoft philanthropies for over a decade and has a brilliant book: Purpose Mindset. Now, Akhtar is all about purpose, how we can have more of a purpose mindset going beyond just the growth mindset and how we can lead our organizations to nurture greater purpose. I really, really enjoy this conversation, would encourage you to buy the book, listen to Akhtar every chance that you get, because we all need greater purpose and focus on that purpose. 

Now, I love hearing from you. I love your purpose-driven comments, mahan@mahantavakoli.com. There's a microphone icon on PartneringLeadership.com, love those voice messages too. They bring a smile to my face. And don't forget to follow and/or subscribe to the podcast depending on your platform of choice. For the third of you that listen to it on Apple, would really appreciate you taking the time and leaving a rating and review, that will help more people find these magnificent conversations, learn from leaders like Akhtar to become more purpose-driven. Now here's my conversation with Akhtar Badshah.  

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Akhtar Badshah, welcome to Partnering Leadership podcast. I am thrilled to have you on with me today. 

Akhtar Badshah:I'm so delighted to be with you Mahan and I'm really looking forward to this conversation. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I love your book, the impact it can have, and the importance of purpose at this point. Actually, I'm very involved in Leadership Greater Washington, currently board chair, and we talk about great minds for a greater purpose. So our community wants to hear more about purpose, which is why I can't wait to share some of your insights with the community. But before we get to your book, Akhtar, whereabouts did you grow up and how did your upbringing impact the kind of person and leader you became? 

Akhtar Badshah: 

So this is actually a great question, right? I mean, if you, and since you've read my book, I mean, this is something that I kind of record in my book where the folks that I have profiled have all started off by talking about their childhood and how their childhood and their upbringing had such a seminal impact on their lives, because either their parents were actively involved in the community or they got an opportunity to be actively involved in an early age.

And unfortunately, that wasn't the case with me. I grew up in India, middle-class family doing the regular things. And the biggest focus in the family was to get us educated. And my father was a businessman. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, even though she had actually done high school and had worked as a stenographer previously, but there wasn't any real sense that we were actively engaged in the community.

We participated in the community. I think what changed was when I went to architecture school. And in architecture school in Ahmedabad, this Center for Environmental Planning and Technology in the school of architecture there, was a very unique place. And architecture is actually kind of a unique subject. It not only teaches you how to design buildings, environments in which people spend a significant amount of their time in shelters, which are man made, to also understanding the importance of the built form on the community. 

So there was a lot of work that we did in schools while we were out in rural communities, looking at historical structures, looking at low income housing, slum redevelopment, and all of that infused my thinking around what else is out there in the world besides just creating high rise buildings or fancy homes? 

And you come to MIT and there, I was part of the focus on environmental design, that work continue. And then I got exposed to starting a new program at MIT called Design for Islamic Societies. And again, there, the focus was how do we bring in more than design into a historical context with cultural sensitivity?

So all of these have just shaped my mind around what I call, how do you affectively taste the ground that you're going to walk on? Which is, how do you get a deeper understanding of the community in which you operate or are going to be engaged in or you work in? So I think that's essentially what it was. But the important thing that came out of the family was this enormous focus on education. And that's a value system one kind of continue to take forward in my trajectory and how we have actually worked with our kids and our family. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So Akhtar, you had that family emphasis on education, studying architecture and teaching it, and eventually taking that design thinking to the nonprofit sector before going on to head up Microsoft philanthropies.

Akhtar Badshah: 

So I think the interlude between teaching at MIT and Microsoft philanthropies was about a decade spent in the nonprofit sector. I, so you've gone from education where you're primarily focused on research, design, educating. Architecture is a very interesting field because it's kind of both practice and research to the nonprofit sector where you are able to get out into the community and work in that community.

And I kind of had this unique experience of not only working in a nonprofit, which was focused on the built form and mega cities. But then, also being part of a effort that was focused on bridging the digital divide in the early 2000s, where most people were really not talking about this gap. And we were basically talking about how the knowledge gap is going to be far more detrimental to society than the wealth gap. And that work, both again in the community, is what I was able to bring to Microsoft. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And you came into an organization that you talk about has a culture of empathy and purpose. How did Microsoft nurture a culture of empathy and purpose? There's a lot of talk about that by leaders and organizations now. Many of them aspire to it, but very few have it. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

So I think every organization has kind of, has multiple leaves of how it operates. On one side, Microsoft is a hyper-competitive environment, right? Everybody that comes there is top of their class, highly competitive. They are creating products that wants to take the world by the storm. It's been at all cost, think big. 

Yet within that same environment, Bill Gates, because of his upbringing and in this case, directly because of his parents who were so actively involved in the community, wanted him to start something that would engage the employees to better understand the community and participate in it. Mary Gates got him, Bill's mother got him to start the Employee Payroll Deduction Program in 1983. 

But I think the most important decisions were made by Bill Newcomb, who came in two years later in 1985 as the chief legal officer. He was a Stanford graduate, had clerked in Seattle for a judge that was focused on more community legal issues, worked for a law firm that was actually practicing in that area, eventually started working for Bill Gates Sr. and his firm. 

So he kind of got that sense of empathy and purpose in his upbringing, because his parents were also actively engaged in the community. But when he came, he basically asked Bill and Jon Shirley, the president at that time, that he should, in addition to the department of legal affairs, create a department focused on industry affairs, government affairs, corporate affairs, and community affairs.

And I kind of understood the first three because they were business related. You know, you have to become part of them, government was a big client, IP was an issue. You needed to be part of the software industry and societies. So all of that was happening at that time and the company needed to be engaged in it. And therefore, you needed qualified people that could actually participate in that. 

But community, I did not understand. And he kind of explained it to me this way, which I thought was extremely having enormous foresight, that your audience, young 20-something working 18 hours a day, trying to change the world with software, but are eventually going to establish roots in this community, get married here, have kids, and then need an avenue to understand the community in which they live because right now, they are only focused on their work. 

And community affairs and an employee matching program was that incentive to create a way by which you bring people who are otherwise cloistered in their work, and slowly bring them out into the community and expose them as to what is happening in the community. And that became the genesis of the seed that took a moment, which Mary Gates had, and started turning it into a movement, which has now become this full fledged effort where Microsoft and its employees are always looking for ways in which to participate and engage in the community. 

And that then slowly shifts the mindset from a growth mindset, a hyper-competitive mindset, and starts tempering it with purpose. And for some, it happened very quickly, and for others, it's a much more gradual transition. So by just creating that space, Bill and the success of leadership planted the seeds of culture in the company, which eventually became its DNA. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

As you said Akhtar, from a moment to a movement. Microsoft's culture has nurtured many movements, 26 of which you highlight in your book. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

Right. So with any, I mean like a plant, you put it in a seed, and you, you know, sometimes it might take root and sometimes it might not, but if you put in a seed and you start nurturing it through water and love and tender care, now people actually say you should sing to your plants. 

And the reason I bring that up is that even at Microsoft, every decade, how we nurture this program changed because new ideas came in, new realities set in. People were no longer these 18-year-olds who knew each other and were just a thousand people. It's a company now of 180,000 employees, 80,000 in the United States. It's a way different company with lots of different people don't have that tight connection to the origin. 

So you need to do different things. And that's where I actually talk about, "How do you take a moment and continue and bring it into a movement?", but a movement also dies if it is not nurtured and if it is not given the energy that it needs. So I think companies need to understand that there is all this feeding and care that needs to happen, and that feeding and care has to shift according to the times that you are in. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And the times that we are in Akhtar, need that kind of purpose even more so. And you lay out a framework on how to develop a purpose mindset from discovering your strengths, to working from abundance, expanding the common good, igniting movements, and then embracing empathy and compassion, which really struck me.

You talk about centering on 'we' rather than 'me.' Now, our culture has been very 'me' focused, celebrating individual success, saying, "I can do it", "I can have an impact", "I have a lot of control", "It's what I gain", but you keep emphasizing the need to move beyond 'me' back to a 'we' mindset. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

I mean, even if you look at American history, right? It's been a culture of individuals, but there's also been a culture driven by communities. For a long time, there was no governance in this country. People self-governed, but these were small communities who took upon themselves to look after each other and each other's wellbeing even though you had this way, you need breed of the individual explorer who's going out and discovering things.

But even then, you had that leadership that brought others along and created value for the community, whether it was setting up civic engagement organizations, setting up hospitals, setting up theaters, setting up educational institutions. These are all acts that built the community. So we have always been engaged in civic activities.

What has happened in the past couple of decades is two things. One, the pendulum celebrating individuals and the entrepreneur has shifted much further. And then you've kind of got this social media engine that has amplified that individuality even more. So these two coming together have kind of created this tension, and that is kind of building a different set of muscle. 

What I'm arguing in the book is that the workplace is where you spend most of your time. Actually in fact today, the workplace has even invaded into your house as you and I are sitting in our separate home environments, but the workplace is still omnipresent. So the workplace can be an environment, a square, a public square where you can get people of different voices, of different ideologies, of different ways, of different color, of different gender, different persuasions, of different status to come together, to engage in activities that break down these barriers.

See, working as a team around a product, there is still hierarchy. Somebody is leading that team, but when you go out and do volunteer work in the community, nobody is leading that effort. The VP might be the ones that's picking up the shovel, and the young kid who just joined might have organized this effort to say, "Let's go plant, clean up this environment in a school, or paint the classroom, or go feed the hungry, and go stand in the soup kitchen." and everybody suddenly becomes equal. 

And that muscle needs to be built, especially if we want to move from the bonding environment which is where most of us tend to do, we bond. We bond because we have political affiliations, racial affiliation, universities, clubs, your society, it's all a way to bond. People of similar aspirations come together. 

Bridging is where you're actually moving across the divide, and working with somebody that you may have no other connection to. And if society has to break down these barriers where we have now become part of an echo chamber, we need to build the muscle of bridging. And the workplace is the most important environment in which you can do that. 

So, which is why I argue that our fixation on the 'me' has to evolve. It doesn't mean you don't focus on yourself, but the growth mindset is all about focusing on your improvement and the workplace improvement or the business improvement. Purpose mindset, I postulate, introduces the element of the community in that spiral. 

You grow, the business grows, the community grows, you grow, and that spiral is a ascending spiral. It's an open spiral rather than a closed circle in a growth mindset. I think that's the distinction that I am trying to create. And I think that's why I kind of talk about these five principles. And if you may, I might just share why, what I mean by these principles and why this is important for all of us to embody. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I would love to hear your perspective on it because I find it inspirational for myself. I find it's where we need to go. Before we go into the five principles, I do wonder though, is that you say things, great things including instead of asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, ask them who they want to serve when they grow up. 

So it's important for us to embrace that purpose mindset, but even pretty recently, I was reading an article that most teenagers now don't want to grow up to be doctors or mechanics or anything else. The number one choice is to become a YouTube influencer. So I wonder if we are going in the wrong direction and continuing to highlight a 'me' focus rather than getting traction with a 'we' focus and a purpose mindset. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

And I think that's essentially the point I'm trying to talk, bring to, right. I'm actually now talking to a lot of young groups to get them to really recognize not who you want to be, but who you want to serve. You can serve somebody in a very effective way by being a YouTube influencer, but being a YouTube influencer should not be your ultimate goal. Your ultimate goal has to be something bigger than being a YouTube influencer. 

You can become a doctor, but you're, by figuring out who you want to serve. If you want to serve people so that they are healthy, and being a doctor is one way, being a nurse is another way, being a bioscientist is another way, being a bioethicist is another way, being a pharmacist is another way. There is, there's a whole different way in which you can actually say, "I am doing this because this is who I want to serve."

Now, life is not constant, who you want to serve will also evolve. I mean, I've gone to multiple jobs and completely different jobs for which I'm not even qualified and trained to do anything about. Our kids are going to go to even further transitions because they're going to get exposed to so many new opportunities. And even our education system has evolved to give them different skillsets that they are able to latch onto. 

So the question is not about whether you want to be a Tiktok star, but what is it that you're actually trying to do? And it's very interesting, right? I am, my eldest son is probably the least social media active person in the family. He has the most Instagram and Tiktok followers. And it's because he's a financial analyst, works as a financial analyst. And he basically decided to put out information around financial analysis to people in a very digestible and consumable way, and that's attracted more viewership than anything that, you know, all of us were far more active in social media. 

So that is, it's the intention versus you. In fact, he actually doesn't even post a picture of himself. So people don't even know what he looks like, it's just his voice and his information. So I think it's very important for people to understand that there are lots of, and this is a phenomenal opportunity that we have. That if we use it well, imagine the change we can make. 

Mahan Tavakoli:

It's the power of the purpose mindset and clarity of intention and purpose rather than a focus on the self. So I would love for you, Akhtar, to talk briefly about the five principles you mentioned in your book that we need to go through to develop more of a purpose mindset, both for ourselves and in leading our organizations.

Akhtar Badshah: 

Let me, let me just, you know, and I'd probably use some examples to even highlight this, right. So in the first principle is working from strengths. We are, as a society, being somehow trained to solve problems. I can't get my students to rethink. They always put up a problem statement. They never put up a statement of the solution. Again, who do you want to be? What do you want the world to look like? 

So all of us have strengths and if we focused on amplifying our strengths, we will actually do much better, we'll find ourselves much more purposeful, enjoy what we're doing even more than actually trying to fix something. And I give the example of Roberto D'Angelo and his wife, Fedeli in the last profile that I do where after multiple miscarriages, they finally gave birth to a son who has a stroke in birth, and is partially paralyzed on one side. And this young couple is devastated. 

Well, what they discover, their focus is on the weak side of the child. Everything is focused on exercising that part, focusing on that, and their face is all about anxiety than anything else. Till they meet a neuroscientist, two years later in Italy deliberately, and he basically talks to them about the middle concept where how your body can self heal if you focus on your strengths, and that's what they start doing. 

And the child, for the first time, start seeing joy in the parents' eyes, and responds. They then eventually go on through the Microsoft's Hackathon Program where they bring in so many different Microsoft employees, who together develop an app that allows families in similar situations to quickly recognize the onset of epilepsy because that's what happens with kids in stroke. It's so tragic, it's a very scary time. 

So this notion of strength and every single one of whom I profile eventually discover that, that how do they work from their strengths rather than solve a problem? Abundance is a very interesting concept because we are always, there's always scarcity, but to try and think through that, and discover small wins that can lead to far more impact is what we really want to do. 

And Trish Millines Dziko kind of starts off from nothing to build a school where she is really focused on African American computer science person comes to Microsoft, really doesn't fit in, tries to see how she can increase more people like herself to come into this space, starts bringing kids in to visit Microsoft, but all of that is just a band-aid. And eventually, just leaves to start a school that is focused on inner city kids and STEM, because she understands that unless they graduate with a STEM degree, they will never be in this, and it's a constant battle, but eventually now, she's got a nationally recognized program. 

Kevin Wang, who started TEALS, does the same thing. This very small volunteer effort, just going out and volunteering in a classroom as a computer science to teach computer science to high school kids, brings in other friends to volunteer their time in other schools, and now it's a national program in 600 schools with 6,000 people volunteering their time from Amazon, from Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft. I mean, every company and in all the States. And reaching more inner city kids than any program that is focused on inner city kids. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And I found Kevin's story really fascinating, Akhtar. All of them are great stories, but specifically with the respect that, with Nadella having gotten involved, then there was collective impact that the organization, Microsoft, was also able to bring to this individual's purpose driven action. So it wasn't just an individual doing something, the culture and the ethos of the organization came to bear to support the initiative. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

Yeah. So Kevin's story is actually very interesting, right. A young kid, grew up in San Francisco, went to Berkeley, got a computer science, went to the University of Berkeley, got his computer science degree, went and taught in a high school in Palo Alto in the Bay area, went to Harvard, got a degree in education because that's what he wanted to do, needed to pay off his loans, comes to Microsoft, gets a job as a software engineer, is getting paid now a good salary. 

Suddenly discovers most people don't go into teaching computer science, is because like him, they can earn a six figure salary in the private industry, and then looks at it and says, "That maybe if all of us could just volunteer a time, one hour a week to teach a class, we could change the paradigm and get more kids interested in computer science, rather than just depending on the football coach who has some computer experience teaching computers or some physics teacher or somebody else."

And he comes to Seattle, starts volunteering in a school, grows from one school to two schools,  picks up a couple of friends, comes to us, asks us to help take this on. We kind of don't understand what he's doing. We kind of give him a little bit of money to keep doing what he's doing. Till Satya Nadella hears about this, and he's still not the CEO, but he's working in his division and picks up the phone and calls me and says, "Hey, what's going on? This should be something that we should be embracing. Why are you guys not embracing this?" 

And our focus at that time was not computer science. Our focus at the time was on just basic skills. But here is the person, who's the CEO of a division that basically shifts the trajectory of that program by essentially saying, "Okay, what do you need? I need a head count. I need him in my group." He said, "Here's a head count. He goes and reports to you now. And here is some money to go along."

And it goes from 8 schools to 600 schools because now, you've got this giant engine behind it, but it's all his work. It's all his connection. It's all his friends. It's all his colleagues who is just basically hounding them. And this is hard work. You've got to go to school every week. You got to show up. You got to teach, he's got to teach them how to teach. No teachers' union fought against this because he involved the teachers and the goal was to train the teachers in three years so that they could take it on and they would move on to another school.

So he understood the whole system, work with the superintendents, work with the principals, work with the teacher's union to create this. And he could do it because he had come from that system. He had that unique combination of computer science and educator, but that's what a lot of us bring, and that's that story of how to think about abundance.

Then you look at it and say, "Do you want to do things right? Or do you want to do the right thing?" How do you decide between the two, about efficiency and effectiveness? Claire Bonilla who runs SightLife, she came in, she was there previously, she was at Microsoft, and then joined SightLife, became the CEO. And looks at the cost structure, and for every cornea transplant, it is costing them $600 or something like that. 

And she said, "I got to reduce costs. I mean, we are a nonprofit, we can't afford to spend so much money." Now, she could have gone the efficiency route and just focused on cost reduction, but she quickly discovered that what she can do is to really take all of her scientists and doctors in the U.S. who are extremely proficient at this, and if she can actually free up some of their time to go and train somebody else in India or somebody else in another part of the world, they will get the same proficiency, she will increase purpose in her employees and in doing so, she'll reduce the cost from $650 to $135. 

And that's that focus on effectiveness and purpose coming together. So that's a very important distinction for people to think about, right? How do you think about effectiveness rather than efficiency? And then it's not, no longer about creating organizations. Organizations are top-down, movements are bottom-up. You bring people along. Uber is a movement. Airbnb is a movement. These are all, they're organizations, but they're a movement. Tesla is a movement. So how do you think about purpose being embodied into creating what can become a movement? Are you selling a widget or are you selling a vision? If you're selling a vision, then you attach purpose to it. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

So Akhtar, as you also address in the book, as you're igniting a movement, how do you keep from the, what's called, and you call also, arrogance of philanthropy and the Silicon Valley mindset of we are going to come into New Jersey and drop a hundred million dollars and fix the school system?

Akhtar Badshah: 

So that's why, I mean, I started off by saying the most important thing I learned was to taste the ground that I walk on. You have to taste the ground that you're going to walk on. If you want to go fix the school system, go sit in the inner city classroom. And then understand what happens there week after week after week so that you can understand. 

So philanthropy does become arrogant because we think we have the solution. What we actually don't understand is the solutions are there. I mean, Tazin realized that, right. Patrick Awuah realized that. That, "Hey, I want to create this university that is going to be the top notch university in Africa." And he realized he was never going to create that sitting from Seattle, he would have to pick up his bag and go back to Ghana, and work in that environment, and work through that culture, and work through that system, and work through that governance, and work through that politics.

Same thing with Tazin, he was sitting and doing all of these things, but eventually decided that, "If I want to really see change in Dhaka, with kids and slums, I will have to go back. I had to be in that environment." Now, that doesn't mean that you don't have a certain amount of arrogance. I mean, all of these people, I mean, all of us, if we are going to take on some of these challenges, we have to learn how to disregard a 'no.' 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

As you say, we have to learn how to be unreasonable. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

Good. Right? So you have to be unreasonable, but you also have to be a constant learner, and you have to be humble, and humility has to come in. And many of these people, humility came much later after they left Microsoft. They were never humble and had humility at Microsoft, but they realize that if they had to function and that's the, that came about because they were constantly being at Microsoft, being introduced to this community, these people, these environments.

So there was that symbiosis and that osmosis that was taking place. So when they got put in these positions, they stepped back from their arrogance. So, and I think that's eventually what leads us to this last point. It is easy to be generous, it is more difficult to be empathetic, and it is most difficult to be compassionate. Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel peace prize winner told me that compassion is when you are willing to give your life for somebody that you do not know anything about because you believe in that person. He basically saves kids who have been enslaved. 

Young kids who are picked up and put into these workshops, changed to machines, working. And he basically goes on raids, and rescues these kids, and gets beaten up, and gets thrown into jail, and into the hospital, and his wife gets threatened, and kids get threatened. He has no relationship to these young people. 

Most of us are not going to be a Nelson Mandela, Satyarthi, or Malala Yousafzai, or you know, Muhammad Yunus or any of them, but we can be on that path from generosity to empathy, to compassion if we just shift that lens from just being focused on ourselves, to viewing the community from their lens. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

That's why I also love, Akhtar, you say, "I don't care about your passion. I care about compassion." And we have celebrated passion a little too much, but you say that passion by itself is not enough. You need to have compassion above and beyond that. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

And I mean, it's the same thing, right? I mean passion is about 'me.' "I am passionate to do this." Okay, great. But the Dalai Lama exudes compassion, because he doesn't care about himself. He cares about you and the others. He's also bringing that same, even more energy. 

Passion is fleeting, compassion is all consuming. It is in every pore of your body. Kailash Satyarthi can't do anything else. Malala Yousafzai can't do anything else. Malala Yousafzai is not going to go now and say, "Oh, I'll go get a job. I'll go work for a company." So, compassion then becomes a vocation. You never die from it. That's not what I'm asking everybody to do, but I'm trying to get people to shift that lens. Pry it open just a little bit. And it's, that purpose is that renewable energy that allows you to light yourself. When you light yourself, darkness proceeds. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

I absolutely love that, Akhtar, which is why I loved reading your book, which shows how compassion is accessible to all of us, through the stories of the different people, 26 different leaders that you tell. It is not, sometimes when we think about the Dalai Lama or Yousafzai and others, it seems inaccessible to some of us mere mortals, but the stories you share and the framework you set out makes purpose mindset accessible to all of us. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

Well, that's what I was hoping to do. I mean, we got to look at Bill Gates and we look at, all of these folks and we say, yeah, he can do it, he's a billionaire or a multi-billionaire. I actually believe that normal people are far more generous in the work they do because they give much more than the wealthy do. Much more. And I don't see it as giving. I see it as back to that word, 'serving.' If we can serve, you bring joy. If you bring joy, you light up the space. If you smile, the other person smiles. You sulk, the other person sulks, the choice is yours. It's basically just a mental thing, right? It's just how we are training our brain to function.

Mahan Tavakoli: 

And again, your book is a fantastic read for helping us understand how to think differently and how to get our brains to function differently, and how to lead our organizations also with a greater purpose mindset. So how would the audience, in addition to, we put links to your great book, how would you recommend for them to connect with you and find out more, Akhtar?

Akhtar Badshah: 

I mean, my, I'm on LinkedIn, please follow me. I truly believe that we can create a movement of purposeful leaders, purposeful individuals. I honestly believe that our poet laureate at the inauguration said this better than any one of us, "For there is always light, if we are only brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it." 

Purpose for me is that switch that lights you up. If we can all light ourselves up, that's 7 billion  people lighted up. That's so much more energy, positive energy. So I want your readers, I want your listeners to join this effort in their own way. Encourage your kids not to think about who you want to be, but who you want to serve. 

Try and figure out what is one thing you can do to make somebody else feel better? What is the one thing you can do to the person that is four doors down from you to get to know you? Just these small acts and in your workplace, be the Kevin's, be the Tazine's, be the Trish Millines Dziko. They started things from the bottom. They didn't wait for somebody to tell them what to do.

Leadership loves it. It may take some time and there are people like me who might not understand, but then you will get to a person like Satya who will understand. I, just a matter of degrees of intellect and capacity to foresee the future, not all of us. So don't, yeah, I mean, Kevin, he wasn't mad at me. He would still come to me and talk to me. Yeah, I would give him a few things and he would be happy and would go away and he would come back and complain and he'd take a few more things. And then, you know, eventually it cascaded up. He also knew that it wasn't that I wasn't willing to support him. 

So the more important issue here is we can all open doors. Sometimes it is afraid for us to walk into a door, into a room that is not lit, but if you are the light within the room, will light up. So take that step. 

Mahan Tavakoli: 

Well, thank you, Akhtar, for seeing the light. Thank you for being the light, and providing such great examples in the book, Purpose Mindset for how we can also be more of the light in our communities, in our organizations so we can lead with a purpose mindset. I really appreciate you joining me on this conversation, Akhtar Badshah. 

Akhtar Badshah: 

Thank you very much. 


You've been listening to Partnering Leadership with your host, Mahan Tavakoli. For additional leadership insights and bonus content, visit us at PartneringLeadership.com.