A better approach to leadership

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Most business education courses concentrate on strategy, accounting and economics. Few teach how to look at, and change, a leader’s behaviour.

This was a problem for Hermien Uys, legal counsel for group exploration operations at mining company De Beers. When De Beers develops new operations, Ms Uys helps ensure that they establish the correct company structure, know how many expatriate workers they can bring in and know how local finance laws permit them to get a dividend out. Much of her time is spent on De Beers’ Angolan operations.

Cape Town

With a law degree, an MBA and 12 years of work under her belt, technical issues are not a challenge. Working with people can be, however.

“I work in exploration, where I deal with a lot of ‘Camel men’ – [a man] in the field, on the jeep, he doesn’t care if you’ve got a company or not. Working with people with different agendas, with different mindsets. For me it’s a challenge.”

Earlier this year, Ms Uys took part in the Leadership Development Program run by the Greensboro, North Carolina-based Center for Creative Leadership. The five-day programme, held at the University of Stellenbosch Business School in South Africa’s Western Cape province, was the first time CCL had conducted its flagship programme in Africa. She says what she learnt on the course has made a big difference in the way she now works with colleagues.

Makhabu Gxoyiya outside her workplace, Wiphold investment

“You got a very good look at how you see yourself and how other people see you,” she says.

The non-profit CCL’s 37-year-old Leadership Development Programme requires a 360-degree assessment to get feedback from colleagues, six weeks before attending the week-long course and another three months afterwards.

Demand for business education in Africa is growing. In 2005, the Association of African Business Schools was established and out of its 17 member schools, Cape Town University’s Graduate School of Business came 71st in the Financial Times 2008 global full-time MBA ranking. For open-enrolment executive education 2008 – practical programmes aimed at working executives – the University of Pretoria’s Gibs business school came in 38th, Lagos Business School 48th and University of Stellenbosch Business School 50th. CCL came in eighth in this year’s combined executive education rankings.

Still, the exodus of skilled workers holds back development in Africa. Better education of managers can help stop that.

War for talent

The LDP makes people better leaders and their organisations stronger as a result, says Rudi Plettinx, the CCL’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “In the African continent, on this overall war for talent...it will be better prepared to compete on a global level,” he says.

Mr Plettinx says his programme does not clash with existing business schools.

“We are complementary,” he says. “We are really focused on behaviour, [on] what makes a leader effective in his style or approach. We will not touch strategy or business finance.”

Questions remain as to how practical such a US-born course is in Africa. It is labour-intensive, offering four to five hours of one-on-one coaching a day. It needs to be made affordable. In South Africa, the economic powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa, per-capita GDP last year was $9,800, compared with $45,800 in the US.

While CCL will only conduct six LDP courses in Africa a year at most – few compared with the 145 held in the US, Europe and East Asia – it is looking to recruit locally based staff, says Mr Plettinx.

“South Africa is a key base to develop from and if we can, we would use that base to move into other parts of Africa, particularly English-speaking Africa. The model of flying in Europeans or Americans into Africa is not a sustainable model.”

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