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7 Questions on Leadership with Irtaza Bilal

Name: Irtaza Bilal

Title: Co-Founder

Organisation: 28 Credentials of Entrepreneur (28COE)

28COE, the “28 Credentials of Entrepreneur,” stands as the avant-garde platform within the realm of entrepreneurs, unfurling its reach across the globe. Presently, it has been legally integrated into approximately 90 nations, with many more queued up for inclusion.

The primary mission of this platform is to foster and bolster the dreams of millennials, startups, visionary business individuals, and professional leaders. The ultimate aim is to catalyze economic growth by cultivating a dynamic ecosystem that encourages cross-border collaboration, uniting investors, stakeholders, policymakers, researchers, and entities devoted to entrepreneurial support.

With a steadfast commitment to flexibility, 28COE offers the simplest pathway for commencing and amplifying businesses, irrespective of geographical boundaries.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Irtaza's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a leader, I have encountered few challenges throughout my career, but one that stands out as particularly demanding is the task of balancing diverse personalities and perspectives within a team or organization.

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is fostering collaboration and ensuring that every team member feels valued and heard, while simultaneously driving the group toward a common goal. This challenge stems from the fact that individuals have unique backgrounds, experiences, and motivations.

To address this challenge, I have implemented several strategies:

1. Open Communication: Encouraging open and transparent communication is crucial. I create a safe and inclusive environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas, concerns, and feedback. This helps in identifying and addressing issues early on.

2. Active Listening: I actively listen to my team members, valuing their perspectives and ideas. This not only makes them feel heard but also helps me gain insights into their motivations and concerns, which can inform my leadership approach.

3. Empowerment: I believe in empowering team members by giving them autonomy and responsibility in their areas of expertise. When individuals feel a sense of ownership, it fosters engagement and a commitment to the team's success.

4. Continuous Learning: I acknowledge that leadership is a continuous learning journey. I regularly seek feedback from my team and superiors, participate in leadership development programs, and stay updated on industry best practices to refine my leadership skills.

Balancing these strategies can be challenging, as it requires adaptability and a deep understanding of the team's dynamics. Nonetheless, by putting these principles into practice, I strive to create an environment where every team member can contribute their best, ultimately achieving our shared objectives.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Becoming a leader has been a gradual and purposeful journey for me. It didn't happen overnight, and I've continuously refined my leadership skills over time. Here's a brief overview of my path to leadership:

1. Early Experiences: My journey began with early experiences in school and extracurricular activities. I often found myself in roles where I had to coordinate and lead group projects, which sparked my interest in leadership.

2. Education and Self-Development: I pursued higher education in a field that I was passionate about and continually sought opportunities to learn and grow. I read leadership books, attended seminars, and took courses to enhance my leadership knowledge and skills.

3. Work Experience: In my professional career, I actively sought out opportunities that allowed me to take on more responsibility. I aimed to excel in my roles and gain the trust of my colleagues and superiors.

4. Mentorship: I was fortunate to have my dad as my mentor who guided and supported me. His advice and wisdom were invaluable in shaping my leadership style and helping me navigate challenges.

5. Taking Risks: I wasn't afraid to take calculated risks or step out of my comfort zone. These experiences, even when challenging, provided opportunities for growth and development.

6. Continuous Learning: I recognize that leadership is a journey with no final destination. I continue to learn, adapt, and evolve as a leader, always seeking feedback and staying open to new ideas and perspectives.

My journey to leadership has been marked by a combination of education, experiences, mentorship, and a proactive approach to personal development. It's a journey that I embrace with enthusiasm and commitment, as I believe that effective leadership is a dynamic and ongoing process.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My typical workday is structured to maximize productivity and balance. Here's a brief outline:

1. Morning Routine: I wake up early to kick start my day with a healthy breakfast and some exercise. This helps me stay energized and focused throughout the day.

2. Prioritization: I start my workday by reviewing my to-do list and identifying the most critical tasks. I prioritize these tasks, ensuring I tackle the most important ones first.

3. Focused Work: I dedicate the morning hours to deep work, where I can concentrate on complex projects without distractions. I aim to complete important tasks during this time.

4. Regular Breaks: I incorporate short breaks to stretch and refocus. These moments of rest help prevent burnout and maintain productivity.

5. End-of-Day Review: At the end of the workday, I review my accomplishments and plan for the next day. This helps me stay organized and set clear priorities.

6. Evening Wind-Down: I reserve my evenings for relaxation, family time, and personal pursuits. I avoid work-related tasks during this time to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

7. Sleep Routine: I prioritize getting a good night's sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. A well-rested night is crucial for productivity and overall well-being.

my workday is structured to optimize productivity through focused work periods, regular breaks, and a balance between professional and personal activities. This routine helps me maintain efficiency and stay mentally and physically healthy.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that I've been reminded of is the importance of adaptability and resilience in the face of unexpected challenges. In a rapidly changing world, the ability to pivot, make quick decisions, and lead with confidence during uncertain times is crucial. This lesson reinforced the need to stay open to new approaches and embrace change as an opportunity for growth and innovation in leadership.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has had a profound impact on my leadership is "28COE Core Value Book" by Dr. Bilal Ahmad Bhat. This book outlines 28 core values that serve as a guiding light for our organization, 28COE. It is authored by our visionary founder, Dr. Bilal Ahmad Bhat, and these values stand as unwavering principles to direct us towards purposeful and impactful endeavors.

The book has been instrumental in shaping my leadership approach by emphasizing the importance of core values in leadership. It highlights the significance of integrity, purpose, and a comprehensive approach to various domains. This book has not only influenced my understanding of leadership but has also inspired me to ensure that the values I uphold align with the organization's mission.

"Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek is another book that has profoundly impacted my leadership. It underscores the significance of creating a nurturing and supportive work environment where leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members.

After reading this book, I realized that leadership is not solely about achieving results but also about taking care of the people who drive those results. This realization inspired me to focus on building a culture of trust, empathy, and mutual support within my teams. I started implementing practices that placed the needs and development of my team members at the forefront, which had a profound effect on team morale, engagement, and productivity.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

One crucial piece of advice I would offer to a young leader is to "embrace continuous learning." Leadership is an evolving journey, and the world is constantly changing. By fostering a mindset of continuous learning, you remain adaptable and open to new ideas, which is essential for growth and effective leadership. Patience is important, but so is the commitment to self-improvement and staying ahead in an ever-changing landscape.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One meaningful story that comes to mind from my time as a leader involves a challenging project that required the collective efforts of my team. We were faced with tight deadlines and numerous obstacles, which at times seemed insurmountable.

In the midst of this adversity, our team rallied together, displaying unwavering commitment and determination. We put in extra hours, collaborated seamlessly, and supported each other through the tough times. As a leader, it was a humbling experience to witness the resilience and dedication of my team.

Ultimately, we not only successfully completed the project but also emerged from it as a stronger and more cohesive team. This story underscores the power of teamwork, dedication, and the ability to overcome obstacles when individuals come together with a shared purpose. It's a reminder that leadership is not just about guiding others but also about being inspired and uplifted by the people you lead.

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