Authentic leadership for changing times

24 June 2016 | Story by Newsroom

Members of the Next Generation Professoriate will be future leaders at UCT. In order to prepare them for this role, Vanessa Lowndes of the T Room recently facilitated three afternoon-long conversations that focused on leading teams and building organisational culture in changing times.

Authentic leadership for changing times
Authentic leadership for changing timesHeather Marco (Biological Sciences) and Vanessa Lowndes.

Vanessa completed her studies at UCT before starting a career as an activist for adult learning in 1997. She worked extensively as an adult learning design specialist and now focuses her work in the development sector.

Over a three-month period, Vanessa engaged in a set of conversations with members of the cohort. Initially they were introduced to the notion of leadership and how it relates to the day-to-day management of tasks and people. How do we get teams to align to an overall vision, with commitment and sustainability, while carrying out their individual duties?

Authentic leadership for changing timesKate le Roux (CHED) and Sylvia Bruinders (Music).

This was followed by a session on self-awareness. One can only make good leadership choices if one is self-aware! Finally, there was a session on situational leadership. It is critical to be able to read a situation and to understand what is needed and which leadership strategy is most appropriate. Leadership cannot rely on a one-size-fits-all approach because every person has her or his own authentic leadership style.

Changes in the institutional culture are a major goal of transformation. Although these are notoriously difficult to identify, decision-making processes are often important either in creating buy-in of academic staff or in alienating them. Leaders have the responsibility of making decisions, particularly ones that will affect many other people, so it is important for them to have a good understanding of how best to make decisions.

Authentic leadership for changing timesSharon Kleintjes (Psychiatry) and Jennifer Moodley (Public Health).

The Recruitment, Development and Retention (RDR) Policy identifies a number of elements as key for transformation. Investing in future leaders contributes to these goals by giving people time to reflect, and building skills that will enable good situational analysis and the best possible leadership decisions.

The course provided cohort members with theoretical frameworks which will help to align authentic leadership styles to the needs of the people they lead. This will contribute to a healthy institutional environment. The course also gave the cohort an opportunity to establish relationships that are critical to building a united and properly aligned leadership culture. Strong leadership drives morality and motivation.

Authentic leadership for changing timesTracy Gutuza (Commercial Law) and Waheeda Amien (Public Law).

At the conclusion of the course, members of the cohort shared their reflections. Their keen interest to apply the theoretical models to their own situations was both encouraging and 'gritty'. They got stuck in! They applied their 'new lenses' to 'not-so-new' situations, and this, in many instances, helped them to identify alternative possibilities.

Vanessa reflected: “When you see people deep in thought, nodding quietly to themselves, and then a broad smile of self-knowingness slowly spreads across their face, you know the intervention is probably going to make a difference.”

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