Professor Monder Ram OBE is Director at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), based at the University of Birmingham. He is a leading authority on small business and ethnic minority entrepreneurship research, and has been named as one of the country’s most influential Asians by the Institute of Asian Professionals. In 2004 he was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours List for his services to black and ethnic minority businesses.
After completing our programme for senior leaders in 2016, a year later Monder joined the local Birmingham Advisory Group for Common Purpose, and was subsequently asked to be chair of the group. The Advisory Group is an important voluntary role which ensures Common Purpose maintains its independence and its diverse and balanced course content, participants and contributors.
We asked Monder why he agreed to join the Midlands Advisory Group…
“Well, the answer’s simple: curiosity and a gentle ‘nudge’ from Common Purpose’s inimitable Operations Director, Louise Teboul. So many people I know have completed the programme, ranging from close friends to professional acquaintances in my work as an academic at the University of Birmingham. These diverse individuals were remarkably consistent in their views: ‘It’s great’; ‘You’ll meet wonderful people who’ll become firm friends’; ‘Do it’! I hesitated for some time, hemmed in by a combination of pressing commitments and an (over) familiarity with management/leadership education in my own work. But a meeting with Louise, which took the form an invitation to explore what leadership actually means rather than a sales exercise, proved decisive. I was in.
“And the notion of ‘nudge’, as it’s used by celebrated behavioural economists today, seems to be an in-built feature of the programme. It’s easy to become engaged in captivating conversations with the wonderfully diverse individuals who’ve joined you to sample the lived experience of leadership in our great city. Freed from institutional hierarchies and supported by a culture of mutual respect, broaching difficult topics – inequality, social cohesion, conflicting values – becomes uncannily natural in a way that’s rare in most organisational settings. And curiosity is nurtured by the sheer variety of the programme. I’m a proud Brummie but I was taken aback by the profound changes that are reconfiguring our City. I was privileged to witness outstanding leadership in the most unexpected of places: a care home in Handsworth; a mosque in Green Lane; and the dynamic Moor Pool Estate in Harborne. Bringing these everyday examples of workaday heroism into the light is a defining feature of the programme. It stays with you.
“But you can’t dwell on these experiences – however rich and distracting – for too long. That’s because the ‘so what’ question looms large; you know it’s coming. What does this glimpse of leadership mean to you? How have you been affected? And importantly, how will you apply it to your own work? Your peers – and soon to be resources in your expanding network – provide encouragement in this process of sense-making.
“Two years on, I’m still trying live up to the ideals of the course. I’m conscious of the need to escape my comfort zone as often as I can, lead without the crutch of institutional position, and to simply be myself. Common Purpose … it stays with you.”