Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Akhtar Badshah of Catalytic Innovators Group Is Helping To…

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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Akhtar Badshah of Catalytic Innovators Group Is Helping To Change Our World

Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses — Working with our strengths allows for a much greater impact. It does not mean we do not improve, but we spend too much time improving rather than bringing our best self to everything we do, including our work.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Akhtar Badshah.

Dr. Akhtar Badshah is Chief Catalyst at Catalytic Innovators Group, where he advises organizations and individuals to catalyze their strategy focused on social and philanthropic investments. He also conducts Purpose Mindset Leadership Workshops with organizations to help individuals articulate their strengths and values, and craft their purpose statement.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career has been a journey across multiple sectors. I started out as an architect and taught architecture at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for a decade before moving to the nonprofit sector, joining a new nonprofit focused on large metropolitan areas and then becoming part of another nonprofit focused on bridging the digital divide, joining Microsoft to head their philanthropy group. I went back to teaching and started my firm to provide strategic insights to organizations in the social impact space and leadership development focused on purpose mindset. One insight from this journey has been that I have always been willing to take a risk and try something that is outside of my comfort zone which allows me to learn and also become an expert in a new area.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

After the publication of my book Purpose Mindset: How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World, which came out during the pandemic, I did a large number of talks for organizations and audiences around the world. One day, I decided to try something new and invite participant engagement rather than the normal question and answer, and that led to the creation of Purpose Mindset workshops, which we now conduct for organizations — businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and academia — around the world. The lesson is to always look for interesting ways to expand on what you are doing so it allows you to grow and may lead to something even more exciting.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We all make mistakes not just in our work but with everything that we do. It is important that we learn from these mistakes or setbacks. Working for Microsoft in a position where I am the person that is investing Microsoft’s resources in the community, I am always invited to various events and everyone wants to ask me for funding. I had to learn how to say no. Many of my friends took a bet that I would not survive at Microsoft for more than six months, as I would say no to CEO Steve Ballmer, or Bill Gates, or other senior leaders who would ask me to support a specific project. I did survive more than 6 months and did have to say no to senior leaders and learned to be diplomatic in saying no. Eventually, my job was to say no given the number of requests we would get for support.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Today, the majority of people have a transactional mindset — they see learning and work as simply a means to an end. This mindset is at the heart of nearly every social, economic and environmental problem in society.

Our work is to shift that narrative and ensure every person on the planet is driven through a purpose mindset that enables everyone to optimize their life to be fulfilled and in service to people and the planet. We help individuals in organizations craft their individual purpose statement and then align that to everything they do, including their work. We have worked with over 40 organizations around the world helping individuals from CEOs, government ministries, deans, provosts in academia, students, and people working in the nonprofit sector. We have also helped organizations craft their purpose statements further help align individual purpose to work and organization purpose.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In March of 2021, I got a call from 5 individuals who were released from prison in CA State after each served more than 20 years in prison. They were released because of the good work they did while serving time in prison. They found their purpose in prison and they wanted to chat with me because of my book — Purpose Mindset. They believe that formerly incarcerated people should be able to use their minds and, with adequate training, they can get jobs in the technology sector. They wanted my help. I have been working with them since that time and we have raised significant resources from the CA State government and also from private foundations to get their amazing Ready for Life program launched — Working with Ken, Ted, Jason, Matt and Richard has taught me that every individual, whatever their circumstance,s if given the opportunity can find their purpose and use their knowledge to make this world a better place.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We should all be focused on not just being great learners and doers but also having the deep-seated knowledge to do things the right way and to pick the right thing to do. As parents, we should ask our kids who they want to serve rather than who they want to be. As a society, we should not be focused on just material wealth as a criterion for measuring success but how we impact society. Politicians should ensure adequate resources are available, especially in schools, to help kids adopt a purpose mindset. Eventually, as a society, we will have to create bringing networks that span across societal gaps rather than boning networks that reinforce these gaps.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is recognizing that every individual is a mystery to be embraced and not a problem to be solved. Leadership is about being a catalyst and a conductor rather than a general. Leadership is taking responsibility and then figuring out how to bring the goodness out in everyone, regardless of the situation they are in. Peter Drucker once said, “The task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways it makes our weakness irrelevant.” Leadership should focus on discovering what is best in society rather than solving problems.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Focus on why you exist versus how you exist — I trained to become an architect but eventually, my purpose became to serve the underserved.
  2. Focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses — Working with our strengths allows for a much greater impact. It does not mean we do not improve, but we spend too much time improving rather than bringing our best self to everything we do, including our work.
  3. It’s not about solving a problem but envisioning the future — Most of us get taught to identify a problem and then solve it versus determining the future that you want to be part of.
  4. It’s not about being passionate about something, it’s about hard work to succeed, and for that, you need to have: Conviction, Creativity, Capability, Capacity, Commitment, Cooperation, and Compassion.
  5. Focus on important things like yourself — Your family and your community and not just work.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am creating a movement where I want every individual in the world to articulate their purpose — ‘awakening purpose for everyone.” If purpose dominated our beliefs, thinking, and action then we would all be working to create a better world for ourselves, family, and humanity. I want everyone to become a purpose champion and join this movement where we apply our purpose mindset and move from the focus on the ‘me’ to the ‘we’ and the common good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is by Carl Sagan: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.” Iconic ‘pale blue dot’ photo — Carl Sagan’s idea — turns 30 | Cornell Chronicle. This quote shows that our focus has to be on the common good and the well-being of humanity otherwise even this mote of dust that we all call home will disappear one day.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would like to have a conversation with Elon Musk. He is one person that is transforming society through the use of technology and putting us on a path for a multi-planetary society. If he could become part of the movement to have everyone awaken their purpose mindset we would as a race and humanity become much more effective.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please join the movement at and reach out to me through LinkedIn at Akhtar Badshah

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Akhtar Badshah of Catalytic Innovators Group Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.