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The Journey Within – Women Leaders Take Time Out For Self-Discovery

Wits Business School is taking the Women in Leadership issue seriously. The School’s Leadership Development Centre, has developed and fine-tuned a course on the subject, and demand is growing exponentially.

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For women in the corporate sector, the ‘glass ceiling’ appears to be as stubbornly present as ever. Interestingly enough, however, Africa has more women in executive roles in companies than the average worldwide. This is according to McKinsey’s August 2016 report on gender diversity entitled Women MatterAfrica: Making gender diversity a reality.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder – non-management and middle and senior management – and fall in number the higher they climb. Only five percent of women make it to the top, according to the report.

Wits Business School is taking this issue seriously. The School’s Leadership Development Centre, has developed and fine-tuned its Women in Leadership course, and demand is growing exponentially.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

This is according to Alison Foote, Manager of the Leadership Development Centre.

“We started the Women in Leadership course with 35 delegates early in 2016. Our courses are now attracting up to 50 delegates,” says Foote.

“We first ran a pilot course in Venda in 2015, and since then, the course has undergone several changes. Using the feedback we have received from attendees, we have designed a programme which provides the kind of support and insight that women in business appear to need and appreciate.”

The course takes place over three three-day clusters over three months, which means attendees can commit to the course with minimal disruption to their work schedules. It interrogates issues such as diversity power and patriarchy, the South African workplace paradigm, strategising as a leader, negotiation and communication skills, engendered leadership and the role of emotional intelligence (EQ) in leadership success.

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One-on-one sessions and lively panel discussions make the course highly involving, and delegates get caught up in debates with titles like ‘The Imposter Syndrome in Women Leaders’ and ‘Think Leader Think Male’.

Through individual coaching, delegates embark on a journey of self-assessment and discovery, culminating in the writing of a personal leadership manifesto.

“We place emphasis on self-actualisation, and the celebration and respect of self. I have seen instances of real personal growth, even transformation, among delegates, many of whom find their voice and tap into inner resources they didn’t know they had,” says Foote.

Related: Understanding Leadership And Natural Energy

The course aims at women at various levels of an organisation, including those who are qualified and already in leadership positions who want to hone their skills, and those for whom the course will help bring about a shift in performance and confidence to help them move to the next level.

Doreen Kosi, a senior executive with many years’ experience in public and private sector leadership, relished the opportunity to take a step back and question long-held assumptions, both about herself and others.

“The EQ component of the course was a huge wake up call. For the first time in a long time, I was able to be introspective and honest with myself and my leadership style, without pressure. I was amazed at how stagnant I had become, and how presumptuous, as a leader. The course reminded me to be appreciative of others and recognise the value they bring to the table,” she says.

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A holistic approach to leadership development proved to be another path to self-discovery. “I never realised how important the balance of body, mind and soul is in leadership. I am more aware of my body and how each and every emotion it transmits each time I engage, whether with others or just with myself,” says Kosi.

The programme asks probing questions, such as does being a woman in leadership result in a different approach to strategy formulation?, and how do negotiation skills between men and women differ?

Related: Leadership Lessons From Corné Krige

“There is a serious danger of making assumptions and being set in our ways as leaders,” says Kosi.

“Emotional intelligence is important in leadership, and women should never be apologetic or modest as leaders. They are traits we need to lose without being arrogant…. these are just a few fundamentals I learnt, and they will stick with me for a very long time.”

Wits Business School (WBS) is Wits University’s Graduate School of Business Administration and offers postgraduate academic and executive education programmes. WBS' vision is to be recognised as the African business school of choice by stakeholders, while maintaining a fearlessly critical outlook, driven by a sense of professionalism, ethics and integrity. The School aims to create the academic, research, leadership and character excellence conditions that nurture graduates who grow and achieve beyond themselves as Africa's leaders, in business and society.

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Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

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Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

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Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Are You Struggling To Find Financing For Your SME? Try Alternative Finance

If you don’t qualify for traditional funding or if it isn’t the right fit for your SME why not explore alternative funding? We specialise in alternative financing options by providing in-depth and custom plans for you and your business needs.

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Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financiers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral.

An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

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