Nthabiseng Moleko lectures on Managerial Economics in USB-ED's Management Development Programme (MDP). Her latest book, Been Chasing Destiny, is an anthology of poetry and a story of hope that attests to her love for South Africa. In her free time Nthabiseng works with high school learners and likes to encourage young and underprivileged people to pursue education.
What has been your toughest leadership challenge?
"I would say one of the toughest has been to constantly lead older people, as culturally the dynamic requires you to respect and heed to their direction and they are usually wiser and hold more experience. However, I have sometimes had a sharp rise to leadership positions and was appointed to the role of CEO at a development agency by the age of 30. The majority of people reporting to me and my stakeholders were senior to me in age but not necessarily in responsibility. I have had to balance receiving counsel and advice, while also exerting my own decisions to innovate and be effective in my own style. The public sector and think tanks are at times bureaucratic, as are universities where older individuals and males are usually predominant. I do believe that in both academia and the public sector a strong injection of young blood, youthful energy, exuberance, and innovation is necessary. These sectors are both patriarchal. Being young, a women and a minority at senior level, requires you to be firm and decisive. The other tough decision was pursuing a PhD full time. It was a risk and challenge to move from a high income to a lower one but the pursuit of destiny and purpose is more important. The PhD would enable me to answer a national question on pension funds and their relevance to national development. For that I needed to focus on research for a period and sacrifice income. It has been highly rewarding, with gains on my academic strength and teaching capabilities expanded in the process."
What is the toughest leadership challenge businesses face today?
"Businesses today have to balance the desire to maximise profit while also looking at the social good. Governments won't be replaced by businesses as they have different objectives, but with the rise of inequality and poverty it is incumbent upon businesses to remain relevant and also provide a social solution to the endemic problem. We have seen a rise in social entrepreneurship, which is a good indicator of business with purpose. The question is whether the scale and quantum of these enterprises are sufficient to promote inclusion and economic development without big businesses entering this space. Business cannot continue as usual and social cohesion, national unity and economic development cannot be the agenda of government and civil society alone. Business is part and parcel of building a nation. Businesses need to also have national interests in their agenda and make a call to go beyond profit maximisation. This is important because without social cohesion and promotion of equality and decent living for all, social conditions will be a significant risk factor for most businesses whose long term sustainability will be compromised."
Who inspires you and why?
"My parents are my inspiration, as well as my grandmother. My grandmother is 98 years old and resides in Mahlungulu village in Qumbu. She is my only remaining grandparent and her love for hard work, God and education are without equal. She raised more than 40 relatives, friends and family — many of whom are professionals today. Her love and kindness are contagious. To this day she keeps active by farming her garden, rearing chickens and sheep, reading the paper, and listening to the radio. When she attends funerals she sometimes walks two kilometres! This is why she is still strong and alive. My parents inspire me because of their love for education and their belief in its ability to change the future of the black child. They sacrificed and chose to send their children to schools that they needn't have, but chose to so they could ensure we are better positioned to succeed. They inspired me to pursue my PhD and made sure that I enrol for it despite having a clear future."
What is the most valuable teaching you have received from a student to date?
"Students, I have learned, are a quite a resilient bunch who have tenacity and never give up. Besides having fun with them in the classroom, keeping up to date with what is happening and ensuring you are current is the norm at USB. However, while teaching Statistics and Economics, it is crucial to ensure I can provide practical linkages to theory and real world practice. Questions are always raised about relevance if you don't expound on the links. So it is important to make these obvious as many in business schools are middle to senior managers in their sectors."
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
"'The just shall live by faith', and 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me'. These are two scriptures that empower me to do what I need to do in this lifetime. They give me the vision to see what others cannot see, and hope for that which is not obvious to the natural eye."