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Simon Susman appointed as an Honorary Professor at Stellenbosch Business School (USB)

USB News

Simon Susman appointed as honorary professor at Stellenbosch Business School (USB)

  • December 15
  • Tags Our news, Leadership

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“One of the greatest tools to have is to never stop asking questions. By asking why and what you start building an information base and from my experience, the more you ask the more you can trust your informed instinct, says Simon Susman, the former CEO of Woolworths. He says during his career he has seen far too many people who jump to conclusions and come up with answers and not having asked anything like enough questions. “If you ask enough questions, inform your internal database, then you can trust it. And when you can trust it, follow it,” he says.

Susman was recently appointed as an Honorary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). He is also the chairman of the business school’s advisory board. On his appointment, he said it was a huge surprise and was touched by it. “For someone who does not have a higher education to be given an Honorary Professorship is indeed a true honour.”

“I believe there is a huge role for mentoring in our society.”

In his new role, he wishes to contribute to mentoring. “I do a lot of mentoring in my current career. I particularly mentor a lot of young black entrepreneurs and I believe there is a huge role for mentoring in our society.”

Lessons over the years
“Over my career, I’ve learned not just lessons on how to fail but also some lessons on how to succeed. My own view that is deeply based in a set of values and if you stick to your principles and values, you will get a lot of clarity on that and if I can share that with some of the students then I would be very happy to do that,” he says.

Susman says the biggest lesson he has learnt over his career of 37 years with the company, is that it is okay to fail. “In the failing comes the learning. I think there are a lot more learnings that come out of when you get things wrong, whether it is people choices, strategic choices, product choices or relationships.”

He says in his career he made quite a few mistakes and at the time they feel terrible and that you have let everyone down. “But it doesn’t mean that you are a failure; it means you tried something. So I think one should encourage all young business people to be prepared to make mistakes, just go for it and learn from it,” he says.

Year of change
Susman says 2020 has been a year of change. “But I want to qualify the change. It’s been a year of accelerated change. The businesses and charities that I’m involved with are all seeing an acceleration of changes that were there beforehand, some of which we have recognised and some we hadn’t recognised. But when you look back, Covid-19 has been an accelerator.

“The business school needs both concepts of integrated online learning and physical learning.”

“The business school needs both concepts of integrated online learning and physical learning. I think the biggest thing we are going to have to learn is how we truly manage online learning distance learning and the mix of that with physical learning to create a cultural, integrated experience,” he says.

Businesses and educational institutions forging long-term collaborations
“As much as a business is driven by how it sees the market and how it can carve out its own space, I think that universities create a context for future leaders who can think differently. One of the things I’ve been discussing with Prof Piet Naudé (past USB director), is that I think in South Africa and Africa we live in a world of immense uncertainty – political uncertainty, economic uncertainty, cultural uncertainty, confusion, guilt, and anger.

“I think that universities create a context for future leaders who can think differently.”

“All of these things that drive businesses on this continent and creating leaders who can chart a path through that confusion is one of the primary roles of the business school,” he says.

“If a business school can produce leaders who can operate in uncertainty in a principled way, understand the changing world, then they form the supply chain of the thought leaders and businesses themselves. You need those thought leaders driving the businesses. So for me, it’s a very close integration of what the business school can provide and what businesses need in the future,” he says.

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New book explores Japanese philosophy in modern business world

USB News

New book explores Japanese philosophy in modern business world

  • December 15
  • Tags Our news, Leadership

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Prof Frank Brueck, honorary professor at USB, published a book based on the wisdom of the old Japanese philosophy of IKIGAI (the reason/purpose of life). He developed a unique model to review your own (working) life in these trying times. In this new book Ikigai is transferred to the modern business world. It highlights how we can achieve purpose and meaning as individually as leaders and collectively as organisations. Here he shares more about the book:

How would you define meaningful leadership?Meaningful leadership is fuelled by purpose and an integrative power connecting the leader with him/herself as well as with stakeholders and the environment. What that means can be well described along the lines of the Japanese life philosophy called Ikigai. “Iki” in this context means Life and “Gai” can be translated as Reason. So, we are talking about the reason for life. In the case of a leader this would be the reason to work or more precisely the reason to lead. In order to arrive at this ikigai a leader has to integrate the following dimensions at a very high level:

  • What I am good at (capabilities, skills, knowledge)
  • What I love to do (passion and motivation)
  • What the world needs (sustainability, social impact)
  • What I need for the market (business acumen, market orientation)

Once this integration is established, it ultimately means achieving a fulfilling and satisfying state in work and leadership creating meaning for oneself and others. The energy for this is generated from the personal experience of satisfaction and even flow, from authenticity in behaviour which takes away the exhausting need to play the role of leader instead of being a leader, as well as from the fact that the needs of the world around is also taken into account.

How can leaders contribute to meaningful work?An Ikigai leader will lead by example and create an atmosphere that supports the development of collective purpose in the context of the organisation. This is done be making sure that the needs of the world are taken into account in decision-making and by creating an atmosphere of benevolence in the organisation. Employees will experience and be motivated by the fact that their needs to develop further in the four ikigai dimensions are taken seriously.  Once they move closer to a state of ikigai themselves with all the positive side effects of feeling empowered and supported in a positive working attitude, they will subscribe to the collective purpose as well. This way even smaller tasks can become meaningful.

What are the eight IKIGAI leader types?Any combination of the four main dimensions of ikigai in leadership can provide valuable insights into where a leader is positioned in the model and which Ikigai Leader Type most accurately describes the person and the leadership style. The segments can be best identified by regarding those areas of the graphic model in figure 1 more closely where two or more circle dimensions overlap. These eight segments with two or three overlapping dimensions are situated around the centrally positioned ikigai area, where all four dimensions overlap. Each of these eight segments represents a distinctive leadership type that is influenced by the dimensions it consists of.

Ikigai Leader Types
Figure 1: Ikigai Leader Types

An INNOVATOR Type leader for instance experiences is very confident to have all the necessary skills and capabilities required for the job and works with great passion and joy. However, all these positive aspects cannot cover this person’s lack of the necessary market know-how and a certain type of ignorance towards the needs of the world. This situation is bound to lead to frustration, since all the expertise and passion does not lead to the expected positive response of the market or of society.

The EXECUTIVE Type leader on the other hand is very successful in business, includes a good amount of capabilities, and makes sure sustainability and impact are taken into consideration. However, this person does not actually love what he or she does. This creates a feeling of emptiness and exhaustion. Work becomes the supplier of a good income, but does not provide a source of satisfaction or fulfilment. On the long-run these are the ingredients for overpowering stress and burnout.

By identifying these types, the route towards improvement becomes obvious. The Innovator Type needs to work on the development of business acumen and to expand the awareness to the environment and the needs of others. The Executive Type needs to identify and strengthen those parts of the job that he or she actually really loves and draw passion from there. Hence, the model with the connected assessment can be very useful for identifying the personal position in relation to a state of ikigai as the basis for informed development actions.

How does the concept of IKIGAI contribute to workplace culture?Organisational cultures can be assessed the same way leadership types can be determined – by their position in the model relative to the state of ikigai. When we measure the collective ikigai of an organisation on the four ikigai dimensions, we get their Ikigai Business types or cultures as figure 2 shows.

Ikigai Business Types
Figure 2: Ikigai Business Types

Again we can identify the collective strengths and weaknesses of the organisational culture to evaluate what has to be done to reach a state of ikigai – a sphere of non-exploitive dynamism and balanced collective flow producing high business performance as well as social and environmental impact at the same time. Again they Ikigai Business Type would indicate how to develop: a START-UP type organisational culture lack market know-how and can e.g. close this gap by adding strategic resources in that direction. A COMPLIANCE type organisation does the right things, but is hollowed out by a lack of passion and capabilities. That way the right organisational development strategy can be designed for each organisation in order to get to an ikigai culture.

A few tips on how leaders and managers can drive organisational purposeThe ikigai model can help to remove the individual and collective blind spots we may have developed over time. For that, however, it needs absolute honesty in the assessment and the will change. Far too often we are fooling ourselves sub-consciously trying to keep in our zone of relative comfort and to avoid an uncomfortable truth. Only the will to transform can open the way to embracing a new purpose and meaning.

Once you know your leader or business type the direction of the desired development becomes obvious and we may experience improvements. However, ikigai is no passive state. It is a highly dynamic sphere and we have to constantly make sure that we are on the right track in all four dimensions. So, we need a high degree of alertness not to become complacent and to keep our ikigai intact.

Additionally, when we assess purpose and meaning arriving at new perspectives and at a new level of awareness, we have to act in the face of reality. When we realise that we are still undervaluing sustainability and social impact in our business model for instance, there is no point in only superficially patching the problem instead of facing the consequences and engaging in deep rooted change action. The same is true on the individual level and I may have to confess to myself, that I am in the wrong position preventing me to thrive. Well, then it’s time to come up with alternatives for my own and the collective benefit.

There are some Japanese ideas on how to keep up your personal ikigai which can be translated to the business spheres as well. There is for instance the rule to never fill your stomach completely but to keep it at 80 % max in order not to get tired and complacent. This call for strategic reinvestments of profits instead of focussing on short-term material gains. Combined with the advice to play an active role in your community, it would call for societal contributions.

Lastly, ikigai leadership calls for humility and high ethical standards since these are the only ways to stay real and true to your purpose. A leader with a bloated ego may impress in the short run, but will be exposed in the long run. The same way exploitation of people and the environment may work short-term but is not sustainable as we all know.

For more information about the book, click here

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Natasha Winkler-Titus

New senior lecturer in Organisational Behaviour joins USB

USB News

New senior lecturer in Organisational Behaviour joins USB

  • December 15
  • Tags Our news, Leadership

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Natasha Winkler-TitusDr Natasha Winkler-Titus joined USB recently as a senior lecturer in Organisational Behaviour and Leadership. She is also the current President of the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology in South Africa (SIOPSA).

She was awarded the 2019 Organizational Psychology Practitioner of the year in South Africa and was awarded Best paper at the 2018 British Academy of Management (BAM) Annual conference in Bristol, UK. Natasha believes in using her influence and platforms to empower others toward significance and drive societal change and transformation.

Natasha holds a PhD in Organisational Psychology and is registered with the HPCSA and successfully worked at a strategic level with the executive teams of multinational organisations in South Africa and abroad. She believes in leading a purpose-driven life and during her free time she participates in community activities and also enjoys experiencing new things.

Read more in this interview.

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USB Lion's Den 2020

Entrepreneurs present innovative business ideas at Lion’s Den 2020

USB News

Entrepreneurs present innovative business ideas at Lion’s Den 2020

  • November 26
  • Tags Our news, Entrepreneurship, events

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Entrepreneur Lohan Pieterse was named the overall winner at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) Lion’s Den event on Wednesday, 18 November 2020.

He is a current Masters student in Data Science at Stellenbosch University with a background in industrial engineering and five years of professional experience in the forestry industry. His business idea, GreenTweak Business Systems, aims to manage system implementations of proven new technologies for typically overlooked commercial enterprises.

GreenTweak USBHe says it is “absolutely amazing and a surreal feeling” being named the winner and says the insightful pitch training sessions done by Seraj Toefy (Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB) was invaluable to take constructive criticism to heart and evolved the presentation into what it was ultimately.

On the idea he says: “The flagship product of the business is called TreeVIZ – a computer vision toolkit which is designed for the forestry industry to accurately determine biological asset values at a large scale.

“The problem that forestry companies are facing is that they only capture location data by manually sampling between 5 – 10% of a complete stand – this often leads to erroneous recordings skewing growth models. Biological assets usually account for billions of Rands and are tied directly to an organisation’s balance sheet – so extreme variances will negatively affect finances and influence projections. Next year, my data science master’s project will aim to collect precision measurements for all trees in a designated compartment,” he explains.

Pieterse says the potential is huge when considering the vast operational footprint of forestry in South Africa and the prospective customers that could use such a product in future. “What makes GreenTweak a key differentiator in this space is that it will be using ground-level video recordings for collecting accurate tree data – an online platform will then charge forest companies a fixed rate per hectare to have access to the processed information.”

He says he learned a lot throughout the competition and is very appreciative to have met the fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. “Expanding my professional network was a pleasant positive on top of it all too.”

Pieterse takes home R50 000 as well as an entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship run by ESADE Business school in Spain.

“I intend to use the funds towards advancing my master’s project in 2021 through procuring the necessary equipment which will give the study a real significant boost. However, the true reward was having an opportunity to meet and present my business idea to all of the Lions – a panel of seasoned investors who assessed the potential pitches against one another. I am grateful for the chance to showcase my ambitions and I am excited for the prospects that will follow from winning this achievement.” he says.

“As a bonus, a fellowship programme presented by LaunchLab was also included in the prize which is very generous and this is giving me a lot of momentum to build up the business. Finding good co-founders for a start-up company is pivotal for success – especially during the early stages – and this collaboration will definitely complement my own shortcomings,” says Pieterse.

Civil engineering student Rinae Musekene was named the runner-up with his business RINAIBRA, a Maintenance Communication System (MCS) which replaces maintenance books, WhatsApp, and email. “We offer tracking of residence maintenance issues and a convenient communication system between the parties (student/tenant, and the maintenance administrator) involved,” says Musekene.

“The award means a lot for us as a young start-up that was started by final year students in a university residence. We are still in disbelief that our problem-solving skills have been transposed into such an exciting business opportunity. The biggest lesson that we have learned over the past few months is that individuals need to learn to earn their problems and understand that problems are not completely solved all at once.  Great organisations and businesses are not a mere pursuit of financial value but rather solving problems and in turn the money will follow,” he says.

Musekene received the second prize of R30 000 from SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilly Law. O’Reilly Law will assist the winner with company set-up and other legal considerations of a start-up, and Centuro Global will assist the winner to expand their business global when they are ready. “We are going to use the competition money to finance critical marketing operations and platform development to add features and to allow for support of more users.”

The other finalists were Alvira Fisher (CoShare), Jacquis Tolsma (Camradi) and Wynand Schutte (DwellSmart).

Facilitated by Seraj Toefy, Custodian of Entrepreneurship at USB, the Lion’s Den panel included Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global, Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos, Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School, Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus, Brandon Paschal, Director of Innovation at SU LaunchLab, Josh Romisher, CEO of SU LaunchLab, and Daniel Strauss, Director of Stocks & Strauss.

 

On advice they would like to share to entrepreneurs, the speakers shared the following:

“Get a good mentor. Being an entrepreneur can be quite lonely and sometimes you just need someone to talk to.”
– Asma Bashir, Chair of Centuro Global

“Don’t overthink it. Just start.”
– Miles Khubeka, Founder of Wakanda and Vuyos

“Don’t start companies; start projects and see where it takes you.”
– Dr Jan Brinckmann, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ESADE Business School

USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business plays an increasing role in shifting society. That is why the prizes did not only consist of cash but also skills and mentorship.

USB would like to thank the following partners for their involvement in accelerating the vision of entrepreneurship with the substantial prizes to the participants:

  • SU LaunchLab
  • Centuro Global
  • O’Reilly Law

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photo of train track subway

Implications of Covid-19 on infrastructure finance in Africa

USB News

Implications of Covid-19 on infrastructure finance in Africa

photo of train track subway
(Source: anna-m. w.)

  • November 24
  • Tags Media release, Covid-19, Development finance

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There is a significant infrastructure finance gap in Africa that is likely to widen due to the Covid-19 pandemic unless countries consider alternative financing techniques, says Dr Ashenafi Fanta, senior lecturer in Development Finance at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB.

“Infrastructure provides useful economic benefits and we need infrastructural development to achieve economic transformation in Africa. Many African countries are now looking at transforming their economies to reduce poverty and to create jobs.

Infrastructure provides useful economic benefits and we need infrastructural development to achieve economic transformation in Africa.

“We have three major economic sectors, namely the agricultural sector, the service sector, and the industrial sector. When countries develop, the usual path would be a shift from the agricultural sector to the service and industrial sector,” he says.

If we want to grow the industrial sector in Africa, we need to invest in the energy sector, transport infrastructure, ICT infrastructure and other critical infrastructural sectors.

“Structural transformation is very critical and infrastructure provides essential input into structural transformation. If we want to grow the industrial sector in Africa, we need to invest in the energy sector, transport infrastructure, ICT infrastructure and other critical infrastructural sectors.”

Dr Fanta says economic transformation also entails increasing labour productivity in all three sectors and achieving labour productivity can be done through infrastructural development, which is critical for economic transformation and economic recovery in Africa.

Impact of the pandemic on the global economy

Economic growth across global regions has decreased. “Many African countries have been experiencing fast economic growth so for these countries experiencing a decrease of 2, 8% is a big loss. There had been positive developments in poverty reduction across the globe but with the contraction of outputs, it’s going to reverse.

Investment in infrastructure can help in job creation and in boosting private sector activities.

“The health and economic consequences of the pandemic are likely to be worse in countries with widespread informality. This is a big concern for us in Africa because we have a large segment of the economy in the informal sector. The blow is the hardest in countries that rely on global trade, tourism, commodity export, and external financing. Investment in infrastructure can help in job creation and in boosting private sector activities,” he says.

State of infrastructure in Africa

Dr Fanta says the availability of infrastructural services and access of the population to infrastructure services in Africa is very low. Looking at the state of infrastructure for each sector reveals a gloomy picture:

  • In the energy infrastructure sector, a combined power generation capacity of 44 countries of Sub-Sahara Africa with a population of about 800 million is 92,27 GW (in 2012) less than that of Spain with a population of about 45 million, which is 105,27 GW. More than 640 million Africans have no access to energy, giving an electricity access rate of just over 40% for African countries – the world’s lowest.
  • In the transport sector, only 208 kilometres of roads in Africa are available per 1000 square kilometres of land area, compared to the world average of 944 kilometres per 1000 square kilometres.
  • In the water infrastructure sector, only 61% of Africans had access to clean water and 31% to adequate sanitation (in 2010).
  • The ICT sector, which is very critical for economic transformation, only has 19 million broadband internet subscribers in the entire sub-Sahara Africa region – about 6% of the total number of telephone subscribers.

“The financing deficit in Africa is also very large and according to a report by the Africa Development Bank from 2018, Africa’s total infrastructure needs amount to $130-170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range of $68-108 billion,” says Dr Fanta.

Public finance is the primary source of funding infrastructural development in Africa. “However, there is increased pressure on public finances due to the bigger health expenditure following Covid-19 responses; governments had to make welfare payments to vulnerable households, and there was a loss of tax revenue as governments had to provide help to businesses that are struggling to stand on their own feet during the pandemic.

“Covid-19 had an impact on both the revenue and expenditure side of public finance and money that governments were going to put forward for investment in infrastructure will no longer be available,” he says.

Alternative sources of funding

Dr Fanta says borrowing money is not the answer. “Governments have already reached their borrowing limits. There had been a concern by international financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that many African governments are facing a debt crisis. As a result of Covid-19, many countries had to borrow a massive amount of resources from international as well as local markets and this has pushed the public debt beyond what governments can handle.

Many countries had to borrow a massive amount of resources from international as well as local markets and this has pushed the public debt beyond what governments can handle.

“The IMF already identified about 17 African countries that are in high debt risk. This is a concern because any further accumulation of debt will be detrimental to the countries,” he warns

Dr Fanta suggests the following alternative funding mechanisms to provide funding to infrastructural development that will be useful for economic transformation as well as economic recovery:

  • Infrastructural bonds: This is a debt but they will be linked to specific infrastructural projects and not added to public debt. These bonds are designed to attract funding specifically to a particular infrastructure, for instance in the energy or transportation sector without placing further pressure on public finances.
  • Development impact bonds: These are bonds where private sector entities contribute funding to kick start an infrastructural activity or investment. They will agree to generate return only if a particular development goal is met. If a development goal is met then donors will pay out the private sector entities the principal plus return or principal plus
  • Commodity-backed loans: Private sector entities are invited into infrastructural investments programmes with expectations that in the event the infrastructural asset fails to generate a return, then the commodities can be used in settling.
  • Tapping into pension funds: These funds in Africa are not well-developed except in a few countries including South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Pension funds are very cautious in investing in infrastructure. There are initiatives in Nigeria where credit guarantees are made available to entice pension funds to invest in infrastructural facilities.

 

***

USB is a triple-accredited business school and offers a cluster of internationally accredited Development Finance programmes – PGDip, MPhil and PhD – to implement sustainable solutions to develop Africa where it matters. All programmes are offered via its immersive, flexible Blended Learning format from 2021.

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usb lions den winners

When an innovative business idea comes to life

USB News

When an innovative business idea comes to life

usb lions den winners

  • November 04
  • Tags Our news, Entrepreneur, USB Lion’s Den

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2019 Lion’s Den winners share their experience

Gerrit de Villiers and Gerhard Landman, both MBA alumni of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), were the winners of last year’s USB Lion’s Den competition with their RoomCheck business idea, which was a favourite amongst the impressive panel of investors.

Gerhard, who owns a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) in Bloemfontein, Free State, experienced challenges first-hand in running a B&B remotely and that is how the idea for RoomCheck started. With their idea, they aim to solve a relevant challenge in the hospitality industry where the owner or manager needs to know how many guests occupied a room versus what was paid for.

“The idea is a device that provides the user with information on exactly how many individuals slept in a bed via a privacy-preserving device that is easily installed. This way our customers are empowered to take action based on the information provided in the way that they choose, whether this be charging the customer for an additional guest or confronting the manager,” Gerrit explains.

They decided to enter Lion’s Den because they needed help to get the idea off the ground. “We believed USB could offer the right connections, having studied there and knowing the competition will present us with the opportunity to engage with possible investors.”

USB started Lion’s Den two years ago to encourage and support entrepreneurs and job creation in South Africa, supporting the thinking that business has an increasing role in changing society.

They say it was an “incredible experience that not only changed the business but also our mind-set around entrepreneurship”. “You often fall in love with your solution and the whole experience cemented the importance of rather falling in love with the problem and building your solution around it. It gave us the confidence in the idea to pursue it further,” he says.

They won a R50 000 cash prize and say financially it provided them with the boost they needed. Furthermore, they also won a mentorship programme from investment holding company Stocks & Strauss (which will resume after the Covid-19 pandemic).

Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to enter this year’s Lion’s Den is to focus on the opportunity to build relationships. “I would encourage anyone with a business idea to participate because it is not only a great opportunity to get the attention of investors or soundboard your idea (against some of the best in the industry), but it’s got more to do with the like-minded individuals that you get to meet. Your next business might just be in partnership with the entrepreneur you meet at Lion’s Den!”

*If you want to witness promising entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors, join us at the online 2020 Lion’s Den, in association with Centuro GlobalStellenbosch University LaunchLab and O’Reilly Law, on Wednesday, 18 November at 14:00. Book here

** The business idea that conquers all and emerges victorious from the den this year, will take home R50 000, plus a share of over R220 000 worth of prizes – including entry into the Virtual International Study Module on Entrepreneurship, run by the ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. There is also a healthy second prize of R30 000 courtesy of SU LaunchLab and services from Centuro Global and O’Reilley Law.

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USB mentor sharing advice with a student

Leading through a crisis

USB News

Leading through a crisis

USB mentor sharing advice with a student
(Source: mentatdgt)

  • October 21
  • Tags Our news, Coaching

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Business leaders, including MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa, shared their advice to lead effectively during these unprecedented times at the online 2020 USB Business Breakfast event that was hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Motsa said he is a big believer in never wasting a good crisis. “Every cloud has a silver lining so even though things are tough today, I do believe if we keep our heads down and do the right things, we will emerge stronger as a company, as a country, as humanity.”

He said leaders are faced with rising infection rates among staff and customers, economic recession and job losses, the lockdown impact on business operations, and the impact on society’s anxiety and stress levels.

“These are really difficult times but the more we learn about the coronavirus, the more we encourage each other, and it’s become much easier for me to lead the organisation and to keep our teams excited and motivated,” he said.

Guidelines for leaders during the pandemic

Motsa shared five guidelines on business leadership that he is using during the Covid-19 pandemic and which he plans on using going forward. “These guidelines are not complicated but it requires a lot of work, a lot of focus and a lot of honest leadership,” he said. They are:

  • Empathy: Show love and compassionate leadership for employees. Listen with curiosity and purpose.
  • Focus on financial sustainability: As much as businesses exist to not only make money, if they do not make money, they are no longer sustainable. Keep your eyes on the main prize – making sure you satisfy your main financial stakeholders.
  • Accelerate strategic engagements: During this period and moving forward, strategic engagement would be key for business models to be sustainable as an entity, and even as a country.
  • Invest in yourself: Equally important is to look after yourself because a positive mindset also begets positive actions. When you are in the forefront leading people it’s really important to inspire them with positivity.
  • Cherish South Africa: This is the only place we can call home. For this country to go forward we all need to do our bit. Look after yourself, look after your people, and look after your country and you will be able to have a future that you always wanted to see.

Key competencies required during a crisis 

Prof Piet Naudé, Director of USB, said leadership matters during a crisis and listed social, sympathetic, interpretative and futuring competencies as key abilities to have. “What happens in a crisis is that people draw back into safe spaces of their environment because the crisis threatens us and our natural intonation.

“What happens on an organisational level is you get what we call atomism, which means instead of being a culture of cooperation and social cohesion, you get an atomistic culture where all people are extremely busy but the links between them are very weak if existing at all because you’re busy with your own survival,” he said.

“This creates a dramatic drop in the social capital of an organisation. This is an absolutely crucial element in a crisis to try as best as you can to restore and maintain an adequate level of social capital,” he said.

Naudé added that a disruptive phase disorientates leaders. “I’ve noticed in times of crisis you get a very interesting mix of emotions that are displayed by people and people respond differently. A leader must firstly be mature enough to demonstrate her or his vulnerability and communicate that as a form of sympathetic competency,” he said.

He added that decisiveness and interpretative competency is another key skill to have during a crisis. “A leader needs to do a critical assessment of the situation immediately. You have to interpret your own environment, but you also have to be sharp enough to interpret the context in which your business or organisation function. Then you must act quickly.

“Lastly, a crisis drops a curtain in front of the eyes of the organisation and it pushes you back into the immediacy of the now. What a leader need is an imaginative competency to look past this collapsed presence and see further. Leaders must keep their imaginative capabilities alive. If you have a very strong vision and mission it will probably, in most cases, withstand the crisis,” he said.

Leading with humanity

Khatija Saley, founder and director of Generative Conversations, said the Covid-19 pandemic is a humanitarian crisis. “When the crisis hit, we stumbled, and I think we all went into a place of vulnerability.

“There was a paradox through the conversations that I heard. People talked about being energised and seeing opportunity while others talked about feeling anxious and fearful. One of the deep insights I got from working with the team was this thing about being comfortable with discomfort; to embrace and understand uncertainty and recognising that we don’t have control over a lot of things,” she said.

A full recording of the event is available on USB’s YouTube channel here

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New report launched: Bold steps to stimulate a changed economy and renewal of South Africa’s growth trajectory

USB News

New report launched: Bold steps to stimulate a changed economy and renewal of South Africa’s growth trajectory

  • October 13
  • Tags Media release, Development Finance

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