March 10, 2018


The OTT Fellowship Programme: five lessons I take home

On Think Tanks’ Integral Leaders for Global Challenges Fellowship Programme culminated at the start of this month. Reflecting on my experience as a Fellow over the past year, I can see how the programme helped shape me into a better leader.

In-depth conversations with the other Fellows and the one-on-one communication with our mentors made this a once in a lifetime experience. As Fellows, we were also invited to participate in the OTT School’s courses, where we received lots of feedback, tips and advice from trainers and participants. Out of the countless insights I have gained over the past year, I want to share the top five:

Give yourself time to reflect

Whether in junior or senior or senior positions, thinktankers read a lot every day. They participate in countless discussions and ponder over complex policy issues to find solutions. This often means they are constantly chasing deadlines.

This madness, no matter how productive, often takes away from the luxury and liberty of reflection. It is through this reflection that we can try to identify the root causes of burning policy problems, rather the more superficial ones. During one-on-one calls with Enrique Mendizabal, my Fellowship mentor, I learned about the importance of giving myself time to reflect.

This new habit has been of great help. It has helped me get out of the fire-fighting mode and move towards prioritising the things that matter most, both for the organisation and in my personal life. This has been truly helpful in helping me become a more mature and thoughtful leader.

In-depth learning

Getting online updates and resources on the subjects of interest is a great way to cater to the new generation of thinktankers. Online resources, however, do not replace books, which provide more in-depth and thorough studies. This last year I was able to complement my online reading with books, which has been a great motivation and a practice I will continue to pursue in the future.

Design thinking to find solutions to leadership (and other) challenges

I was familiar with the design thinking concepts before being part of the Fellowship Programme. Through discussions with other Fellows and through group exercises led by Vanesa Weyrauch, I learned how design thinking could be used to solve leadership challenges. The exercises helped me realise that solutions to some of the most burning challenges do exist, but finding them requires a clear and systematic approach.


Nothing gets done without discipline. This concept was really brought home in one of the initial discussions with the other Fellows, where we talked about how we could become more productive leaders. Through the programme I also learned that being transparent in your communication with your team helps them become more efficient, and offering yourself to be held accountable for the team’s work can be a great motivation for them to produce their best work.

Work-life balance

Vanesa really stressed how important a healthy work-life balance is, and I am thankful for that. Work can be extremely demanding and sometimes it seems like we are working on never-ending to-do lists. This eventually takes a toll on one’s personal, family and professional life. Leadership requires focus, peace of mind and, as I said at the start of this post, time for reflection. An effective leader is one that has achieved a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives.

Read more from: Fayyaz Yaseen