With university admission tests looming around the corner, most candidates are thinking about their preferred career options.
Should I pursue a degree in BBA or in BSc, or something else? Well, If I want to study business administration, which major should I choose?
While finance, marketing, management, or accounting may seem like the more mainstream and obvious choices for Dhaka University's C unit examinees, let me make the case for a nascent discipline and the latest addition to the Faculty of Business Studies (FBS) at the University of Dhaka - "Organisation Strategy and Leadership".
What is organisation strategy and leadership?
While the fourth industrial revolution oversaw the vast integration of automation in the production process, it undermined the role of human emotional intelligence in an organisation.
With the advent of the fifth industrial revolution, however, companies, understandably, seek the coexistence of human labor along with machines at the workplace. This is where leadership and strategy can become crucial aspects of one's skillset.
To survive in progressive automated industries, potential job seekers cannot but groom themselves in a way that distinguishes them from the mediocre and renders them far superior than machines.
"To give today's kids confidence about their abilities, we need to teach them leadership, we need to teach them emotional intelligence and we need to teach them how strategy and leadership skills in each of the layers of any kind of job is very important," said Abdullah Hil Rakib, one of the directors at BGMEA.
Keeping that in mind, the University of Dhaka introduced an essential subject to the FBS called "Organization Strategy and Leadership" (OSL).
The department was established in 2016. This is the ninth department in DU's FBS.
Nearly 60 students are admitted to this department every year, from the 1,250 young students primarily selected through one of the most competitive admission tests - C unit. Few students are selected through the D unit admission test as well.
The department's programs include critical components that are aimed to assist students in acquiring the skills and expertise needed to lead an organisation, from motivating individuals and organising teams to making strategic decisions, establishing and implementing short and long-term strategies.
In Bangladesh, this subject is still unknown to many. So far, there are no business schools that specifically focus on courses pertaining to strategic management, organisational leadership, emotional intelligence, design thinking, entrepreneurship development, and many other modern topics that are essential to groom a person as a strategic leader.
Why would a company need strategy and leadership skills?
Since this is a rather new subject, you might wonder; is there a demand for strategists in the job market?
Well, yes, there is.
As economies expand and become more liberalised, more people take the opportunities to launch new ventures in the same market. There is a sort of "bandwagon effect" where new firms keep entering a market previously deemed profitable.
Now, to operate successfully in an increasingly competitive market, every firm needs to make decisions based on rigorous, scientific evidence and critical analysis. This is where strategy and subsequently, leadership comes in.
When asked about the potential career of a graduate in strategy and leadership, acting dean of DU's FBS, Dr Muhammad Abdul Moyeen, said, "There is a lack of strategists in the market who understand the competitive environment. Without experienced strategists, firms often cannot understand the gap in their actions and invest resources rather wastefully in areas that do not need it."
"You cannot implement a plan without well-thought out strategies. Strategy implementation also requires sound leadership to choose the appropriate strategy and to lead the employees towards executing it. This is where fresh graduates from OSL can make a difference," he added.
What do the industry leaders say?
As the first batch of this department is graduating, we asked some of Bangladesh's industry leaders if they thought strategy and leadership courses had an important role to play in today's marketplace.
One of the prominent industry leaders in our country, Shovon Islam, managing director of Sparrow groups of industries, said, "Understanding Strategy and the ability to formulate and execute the strategy is key for any entrepreneur. The courses and subjects which are taught as part of business management degrees in Bangladeshi universities do not focus on modern elements that impact the organisation strategy in a formal way."
He also added that the RMG sector has been transforming and the sector needs trained individuals who understand the importance of strategy and can execute and formulate strategy.
When asked about the role of strategy and leadership in a corporation, Rashed Mosarof, head of human resources and administration at Dabur Bangladesh, said, "Each company is unique, having its own set of employees, goals, and management style, and that is why it is vital to comprehend each type of leadership to make the mission and vision well aligned with strategy."
Also for head-of-department level, we will prefer people who have proper knowledge on strategic leadership to lead a time to the right direction. That is why strategy and leadership is very core for an organisation.
"Students should be taught to be independent as well. If they want to change their mind in future and be an entrepreneur or start a business, they would need professional knowledge to understand the market and to gain profitability through their idea."
When asked about the role of strategy and leadership in start-ups and SMEs, Md Rashedur Rahman, associate professor of the department and executive director of the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Center (ICE), a think tank based in University of Dhaka, said:
"The importance of strategic leaders equipped with entrepreneurial leadership ability, minds, and expertise is crucial in Bangladesh, with its overarching vision to become a developed nation by 2041, and strong emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) realisation. I am confident that the graduates of OSL will make significant contributions to drive sustainable entrepreneurship in Bangladesh."
What courses do they teach in OSL?
Strategic leadership or organisational leadership are taught in many renowned universities around the world. However, in Bangladesh, the gap existed due to lack of strategic understanding of business.
So, what do they teach at this department?
When asked about the unique courses taught at the department, Dr Moyeen said, "The department offers eight foundational skills development (FSD) courses which differentiate OSL from any other department. Under these courses, our students get to learn different languages like English, Chinese, as well as different softwares like SPSS, which would allow them to excel in professional life."
When asked about courses being offered in the department, Mehnaz Sadeque, a final-year student DU's OSL department said: "As a student of the department, we were taught diverse courses like design thinking, business anthropology, business analytics, entrepreneurship development, alternative research paradigm, change management, negotiation, leadership fundamentals among others to groom us in becoming true strategists and leaders. In total, there were 40 courses like any other BBA subjects and eight non-credit courses for skills development."
With this array of courses, the department of OSL aims to sharpen the analytical, problem solving, and decision making skills of its graduates as well as develop their business acumen and foster a spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and creative thinking amongst them.
Moreover, the pedagogical course outline of OSL has led it to be ranked 85th in the Eduniversal best masters ranking.