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Malaysian Undergraduates Pick Up Leadership Skills At Oxford

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OXFORD (United Kingdom): When one aspires to be a leader, one must simultaneously be a follower too. This however is a big challenge, especially for the young leaders of today.

This is because these youths are ready to “roar” into action the minute they assume a leadership role and cannot wait to execute their ideas and turn them into reality.

What does the word leader mean to the young people of today?


“To me, ‘leader’ is a big and important word. I understand it as someone who willingly helps others achieve something good in their lives without ‘bossing’ over them,” said Dayang Nur Khairunnisa Noraffandi, 20, a second-year law student at Universiti Teknologi MARA’s Shah Alam campus.

Dayang Nur Khairunnisa, who is from Papar, Sabah, was among a group of 18 undergraduates from 12 Malaysian public universities who recently attended the Student Global Leadership programme at Oxford University, here.

The programme was part of the Malaysian Student Parliament: Oxford and London Leadership Programme 2015.

It was also an extension of the Undergraduate Parliament programme, initiated a few months ago by the Malaysian Council of Former Elected Representatives (Mubarak), with the collaboration of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and supported by the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia

Another participant, Luqman Long, 22, a third-year law student at IIUM, described a leader as a visionary armed with a strategic plan through which he planned to attain his vision.

“A true leader is optimistic and will dare to take challenges; he also has the courage to make decisions, regardless of whether they will turn out to be right or wrong.”


Almost all the undergraduates who participated in the Student Global Leadership programme felt that good leaders should be able to guide and inspire others to work as a team. They should also have the drive to attain the visions they have set for themselves and live up to expectations, said the participants.

Visiting fellow at Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies Dr Heirani Moghaddam, who led the facilitation team during the three-day programme at Oxford University, emphasised in his opening session that leaders were promoters of change and challengers of the norm.

“They encourage creativity and risk taking while they concentrate on goals, objectives, mission and vision,” he said.

Moghaddam, who is also chairman of Oxford Academy for Education and Development, spoke mainly about the role of leadership from a global perpective, and he reminded the young participants that it was important for leaders to be willing to work together if the need arose.

And, he added, in order to lead well towards meeting intended goals, the leader must possess the different types of intelligence; namely IQ or intellectual intelligence, EQ or emotional intelligence and CQ or cultural intelligence.


What were the main takeaways from the Student Global Leadership programme? Did the participants, aged between 20 and 29, learn many new things about being a good leader?

Mohamed Ghazali Mohd Yonus, 22, a final year Chemical Engineering Technology student at University Malaysia Perlis, said he was convinced now that young people could become global leaders too if they were willing to think globally, as well as follow “outside” trends.

“This means that one should not limit one’s scope but make it a point to appreciate cultural diversity and become tech savvy, among others,” he said.

During the programme, the participants were also assigned to do group tasks to exhibit their ability to apply the leadership techniques that were shared by the speakers during their lectures.

“The opportunity to interact and practise during these sessions was valuable. When working in a group, we learnt to trust our partners. I now know that trust is a good foundation to a good relationship. And such relationships will enable young people like me to explore better strategies towards successful planning in the long term,” a smiling Mohamed Ghazali added.


Moghaddam, meanwhile, said education, experience and exposure, in any order, were the important E’s a leader should live by if they wanted to thrive, no matter where or which part of the world they lived in.

“In addition to this, one should always be doing self-analysis through the measuring of interests, concerns and level of cultural emotions, to easily see challenges in the ever changing surroundings and situations they live in.

“Those aspiring to be leaders should live life in different standards and that would eventually help them improve life everywhere in the world,” he said, whilst redefining the leadership role in today’s rapidly changing world.

Dayang Nurulhafizah Ramlee, 22, a third-year History student at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said she now clearly understood the differences between the old and new roles of leadership.

“In the past, leaders were associated with making changes in a company. However, the new role of leadership has expanded beyond those business boundaries, which means that social interactions are becoming increasingly vital these days,” she said.

She said based on the points she had picked up during the sharing sessions at Oxford, she observed that currently there was a clear shift in leadership attitudes.

“A generation ago, big societal challenges of the day were addressed by civil society leaders, not the business leaders.

“Today, it’s essential for business leaders to have that nuanced understanding of the major societal challenges shaping the world. Many of these challenges may best be tackled through the government and others working in partnership, including businesses. And this is the core to creating value,” she added.– BERNAMA


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