In the spotlight this week is Isaac Swafo, an expert in governance, human resources, leadership, sustainability, and more. He shares the following:
What has been your toughest leadership challenge?
"My toughest leadership challenge is undoubtedly the disciplinary enquiry that I chaired involving shop stewards who allegedly led employees to commit acts of misconduct during a protected strike. The enquiries were complicated by the absence of case law to provide guidance at the time. The matter was subsequently referred to the Labour Court that handed down a precedent setting judgement."
What is the toughest leadership challenge businesses face today?
"The toughest leadership challenge that businesses face is the need for development of complex problem solving capabilities. The culture of short-termism that dominated business practices since the advent of the industrial revolution is no longer sustainable. Sustainability reporting requirements place enormous pressure on business leaders to balance shareholder interests with other competing interests like environmental and social issues. This requires the development of leadership capabilities to solve complex problems by incorporating non-linear systems thinking approaches. The ability to hold multiple opposing viewpoints while simultaneously retaining the capacity to function is no longer associated with a person's first rate of intelligence as suggested by F Scott Fitzgerald (1936). Business leaders can learn this skill to improve their complex problem-solving capabilities to efficiently resolve competing interests."
Who inspires you and why?
"Dr Dorrian Aiken who is also a faculty member of USB-ED is one of the people who inspire me. Her testimony as an expert witness in a Labour Court matter that I initiated concerning violation of the Employment Equity Act is one of many selfless acts that I admire about her. The role that she played as a mentor who introduced me to the coaching profession is another significant example of her selflessness."
What is the most valuable teaching you have received from a student to date?
"The most valuable teaching that I received from a 'student' was her eloquent elaboration of the lived experience of people with disabilities who are confronted with attitudinal, organisational and environmental barriers. The student decried the slow pace of instituting reasonable accommodation measures to enable people with disabilities to participate effectively in the economy."
What attracted you to USB-ED to become one of our hand-picked faculty members?
"The USB-ED faculty members are held in high esteem in their respective fields, which is one of the key attributes that attracted me."
Do you have a mantra or slogan that you live by?
"Being authentic to myself even when swimming against the tide is a mantra that I live by."
What book are you currently reading?
"The book that I'm currently reading for the second time is We Are Here Now by Patrick Keifert. It provides invaluable insights regarding the validity and utility of adaptive change for survival in a complex environment. While the book focuses on the revival of churches, I find it's ideas to be equally applicable to businesses as well."