“I wanted to transition from a senior manager to an adaptive leader and knew that I needed the know-how and skills to do this,” shares Leonora Lupindo, winner of a Top Student Award for the Executive Development Programme (EDP) in 2021.
“I wanted to expand my abilities to formulate strategy and to enhance the deliverables of my department – thereby assisting my organisation to achieve its overall strategic goals. I also wanted to improve my decision-making abilities in a way that is relevant to the current environment, while taking into consideration different possibilities that lie in the future. Finally, knowing that good communication is one of the key qualities of a good leader, I also wanted to improve my skills to be able to interact more effectively with my peers, seniors, and direct reports.”
She explains that Covid-19 interrupted her enrolment at first. “I was nominated to enrol in this programme as part of my organisation’s talent pool before the pandemic. But I postponed my registration until 2021, after I was given a prospectus from Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development. It was an easy decision to make, since I had completed my MPhil in Development Finance through their business school and felt familiar with the high level of quality that they deliver.”
For Leonora, the main takeaway from the programme was a shift away from linear thinking. “The importance of adopting systems thinking when formulating solutions to everyday problems, versus using linear thinking, was pivotal for me. The Strategic Systemic Foresight module highlighted the importance of constantly considering the whole systemic environment when making decisions and bearing in mind my role and that of my organisation in the environment within which it operates and how to act for the overall betterment of it.”
“I learnt the SODCAST framework and leveraged it to develop a checklist that I now use when evaluating and making decisions in my day-to-day activities. This checklist has enabled me to not only focus on the short-term impact of the business initiative that is getting consideration but also consider the quantitative impact on my organisation’s strategy. I have also used it to assess qualitative impact – such as the possibility of the initiative contributing towards our organisation’s adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More recently, in a project evaluation that I conducted, I noted that although the proposed project did not have a significant positive impact on my organisation’s return, the venture had to be considered as it significantly contributed towards the organisation’s renewable energy project’s goal. Having this wider view has been invaluable.”
Another key takeaway from the programme involves a practice of reflection. “I schedule regular reflection sessions, where I journal and reflect on the activities of the week – reviewing what went well, what could have gone better and what I can improve on next time. During reflection time I also set my intentions for the week ahead and I get the opportunity to review whether I have met the objectives or need to reassess my goals, both personal and professional.”
“As a leader, this has helped me learn to consciously practise self-compassion, and I’ve found that when I am kinder to myself, I am able to extend that to others. This has improved the relationships I have with my direct team and stakeholders. Furthermore, on the soft skills side, I learnt the importance of embracing conflict and rather than shying away and avoiding conflict, I am starting to see it as a foundation for creativity. This one is still a work in progress as I find that, at times, I need to remind myself during a debate that this can be an opportunity to create something new.”
While the programme was run within a corporate context, Leonora relays that the reach extended wider than the expected organisational perimeter – becoming especially applicable to the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) situations that have replaced a sense of certainty, stability, and familiarity in the world today.
“The programme content is diverse enough to equip a leader of any organisation in South Africa to not only aid their organisation to reach its goals, but to be an active corporate citizen in solving the greater challenges facing this country,” she shares. “I believe the EDP contributes to the rise of leaders who can assist their organisations to charter their role in this VUCA environment to enable the country to achieve its developmental goals, while the entities achieve their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.”
“The experience of the programme lived up to my expectations, and I was impressed with the high standard of the discussions during the class sessions, the calibre of the candidates doing the programme, and the superiority of the facilitators of the different modules,” she shares.
The current state of the world makes more demands than ever before. As an empowering senior leadership programme, the Executive Development Programme (EDP) aims to prepare individuals with the necessary management skills to make difficult business decisions in a VUCA domain. The focus of this programme is to equip each executive with global perspectives, business, and ethical framework knowledge. These enable them to inform unique business strategies to accomplish objectives and successfully overcome change management. For further information about it, click here.