With all the continent’s resources available to us, what kind of Africa do we choose to help build? When someone in Africa accepts the role of manager-leader, he or she is immediately confronted with this ethical question from society.
The choice is ours and society offers us an opportunity for greatness or mediocrity.
This was the message from USB Executive Development CEO, Frik Landman, to the USB-ED Class of 2016 receiving their certificates for the open comprehensive programmes at recent award ceremonies held in Johannesburg, Durban and Stellenbosch.
Landman said society offers us an opportunity for greatness or mediocrity. The choice is ours. What kind of Africa is it exactly that society wants from its managers and leaders? It is a wish most of us have in common, namely a sustainable society where –
- all its peoples seriously consider a quality life, i.e. where we all feel safe; we have enough food on our table; we hear the happy laughter of our children; our young people have access to excellent education; our elderly are cared for; our dedicated civil servants diligently deliver the services they promised; and where responsible entrepreneurs have opportunities and flourish in an environment conducive to achievement.
- there is fairness for all.
- all citizens care for the environment and all stakeholders respect the natural constraints we have, diligently guarding the well we all drink from.
When this ethos and vision is shared among a critical mass of our managers and leaders, they have the best chance to shape and lead the social, economic and environmental landscape so that it contributes towards this sustainable future. For this, society requires something beyond an ordinary mind: we need leadership minds that are vastly different from ordinary minds.
At USB-ED as a school for management development, we are confronted with the same ethical question and more: how do we use our convening power to assist this migration from ordinary to leadership minds and how do we equip these transformed leaders to dominate the social, economic and environmental landscape with a sustainable and responsible set of behaviours? Our learning content and learning processes ought to be constantly tested against this ideal future, as a desired societal outcome and the actual behaviour of those managers in praxis.
Kumi Naidoo, guest speaker at the Johannesburg award ceremony, said that the most important leadership challenge is simply to speak the truth. If the situation is bad, we must say it's bad and not hide it. We must talk, acknowledge and address it, because that is what will make things better.
Naidoo was previously the International Executive Director of Greenpeace and currently serves as Launch Executive Director of the African Civil Society Initiative.
“It doesn't matter if you don't know all the answers - all you need to do, is to ask the right questions.”
Never too old to learn is one of his favourite sayings and learning while working is very tough. “To practice this is difficult, so well done to graduates.”
About the shock of how wrong certain things in our country have gone, he said that citizens of this country have the responsibility to know what our government plans are. “We must speak this truth more easily. Let’s have a vision that South Africa and Africa can turn around again and let us work together to make that happen.
“Leaders are not gods. It's not leaders that make history, it is ordinary people that make history. Greatness is also not found in powerful positions,” Naidoo said.
As the guest speaker at the Durban award ceremony, Steve Glendinning, Group Human Resources Director at Mr Price Group, said that business find itself in a rapid changing and unpredictable macro environment.
“Business’s need to adapt to this rapidly changing environment through focusing on shorter term strategic planning and harnessing the capability of social media and technology to provide the business with relevant, up to the minute information.”
He emphasized the importance of any manager having the ability to apply their knowledge and insights from any learning intervention into the workplace. “It is never about the qualification itself, but about the knowledge and insights that one gains and also how one should sustain these.”
Organisations must be able to respond to rapid change, to adapt their strategies in the short-term and to cultivate flexibility, as well as the ability to adapt and innovate.
Business, although sensitive to the viewpoints of both educators and students alike, does not like to see distressed learning environments, as these impact on the development and sustainability of the talent base for the country as a whole.
“The hallmarks of any successful learning intervention, are employees with changed attitudes, changed personal and team performance, as well as changed thinking. Collectively these are the learning outcomes that organisations are seeking as key human resources enablers. Adopting a principle of lifelong learning and setting learning objectives should become the focal point of any manager’s personal self-discovery and self-development.”
He cautioned that current managers in the workplace who lack an appetite for continuous learning run the risk of becoming irrelevant and outdated, as well as running into the difficulty of demonstrating their relevance and capabilities to employers.
“The key differentiator between those who aspire to be successful and those who don’t, is the desire to learn,” Glendinning said.
As guest speaker at the Stellenbosch award ceremony, the CEO of Accelerate Cape Town Ryan Ravens said that knowledge is power and that does not only mean a formal or university education. “Our generation is constantly surrounded by opportunities for learning and access to information is unprecedented.”
“A graduation is only a beginning. Do not let that person you are today define you for the rest of your life. Commit yourself every day to be a better person tomorrow.”
“You can be everything you want and have everything you want, but there is a price to be paid. That is commitment, dedication and resilience. For this discipline and hard work is necessary. Also have faith in yourself that your vision will become a reality.”
Ravens mentioned a few things that people should not do:
- Don’t just wish for things, but rather tell yourself that you will accomplish it. This will help you to commit to take action
- Don’t waste your time, but use
- Don’t spend time, but invest it in yourself
- Don’t plan too rigorously for the future, but also be open to change
USB-ED alumni who have successfully completed the SMDP have the opportunity to enrol for a BA (Hons) degree in Business Management from the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, per SAQA the equivalent of a South African Bachelor’s Degree.
The University of Lincoln has given its approval that all participants who have successfully completed the SMDP be recognised for 240 credits toward this degree. To complete the degree, alumni will therefore need to register with the University of Lincoln for the outstanding 120 credits (total of 360 credits are required for BA (Hons) Business Management degree).
Tracey White, Principal Lecturer Learning Innovation and Flexible Provision at Lincoln International Business School, said at the award ceremonies: “I am very excited to be able to share the great achievements of you all here today and I would like to thank USB-ED for inviting me here to do so.
“You have been on a journey of learning and discovery, I am a great believer in lifelong learning; learning matters and it’s important for you to continue on your journey and inspire others around you. You have been learning the theory and now have the opportunity to take this into your workplace.
“Working in partnership with USB-ED over the past 7 years, we have developed a range of progression routes for SMDP graduates. These are work based learning degrees which are studied online and provide a fantastic opportunity to continue your learning alongside your day job and to develop yourself, personally, professionally and organisationally,” White said.
Picture 1: Frik Landman, Tracey White, Kumi Naidoo and Dr Diane Bell (Academic Director at USB-ED)
Picture 2: Steve Glendinning and Frik Landman
Picture 3: Frik Landman, Ryan Ravens and Dr Diane Bell