CA Michelle de Lange explores constructive leadership


Michelle de Lange helps to build young minds as a finance teacher and an accounting programme coordinator at the University of the Free State. She also builds houses in her spare time.

At the University of the Free State, CA Michelle de Lange coordinates the BCom Honours in management accounting programme, helping grow a future pool of management accountants. She is also building her own mind, as she is currently busy with her master’s in management accounting, which will focus on the efficiency of South African municipalities.

“I want to be significant; I want to make a difference to those around me, I want to shape where we are going as a country and help build the next generation – this is why I am where I am; this is why I have dedicated my work life to teaching and academia,” she says.

Michelle explains that academia, like any other career, comes with its own challenges, such as students turning in papers late and the tertiary sector’s need for more funding. Despite this, she believes she can help shape the future of this country, as well as the future of the students who are in her class, which is worth every struggle.

For Michelle, working at a university, surrounded by academics, many of whom have far more experience than she does, is a privilege, as she gets to learn from them each day. As she works on her master’s, she is also finding the research aspect of academia challenging and interesting.

“Being in academia also gives me the opportunity to be slightly more involved in my own children’s daily lives, which is priceless.”

Michelle has an impressive pedigree as a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), a member of The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and a CA. She also finished second in the world in the Strategic Level Case Study Exam, the capstone exam of CIMA’s CGMA professional qualification, in November 2022, and in 2023, won the Elite University Educator award at the CGMA Professional Awards Africa by AICPA & CIMA.

Constructive leadership

When it comes to working with others, Michelle has an inclusive leadership style and is hands on and “in the thick of things” when it comes to projects. She also believes in getting buy-in from her team members.

“I try to be kind in my dealings with others, and try to leave people better than I found them – I try to share my smile and brighten their day and, in so doing, hopefully spread grace and peace in those around me.”

Michelle is involved in numerous teams at the university, with the most prominent one being the BCom Honours in management accounting team. She explains that the biggest success of the team of between three and five lecturers, has been to bring back the BCom Honours in management accounting programme in 2020 and it has since produced 100 graduates.

This programme was recognised as being one of the top 10 in the AICPA & CIMA offerings in Africa in 2023.

If Michelle were to join the corporate world, something she would love to do, it would be in a consultant role as well as serving on boards and committees where she feels she can add value to the organisation. She also enjoys strategy, and the strategic process, and would love to be a part of this process in organisations and to be more involved in the corporate space.

“I feel that this would also increase the impact I could have in the classroom as it is always much easier to transfer knowledge when you have practical experience and real-life examples to share with the students.

“I believe the time I invest in my students is the best way that I can give back to society – it is perhaps my job, but I invest so much of myself into transferring the knowledge to my students that I hope one day this will form part of my legacy. I sometimes see students several years after they were in my lectures. To hear them tell me about the impact I have had on their lives is really and truly why we as academics do what we do.”

At the same time, she and her husband are involved in a different type of building: homes. “My husband and I are avid builders, having built three houses since 2018, and I absolutely love it,” she says.

“While teaching is my passion, through the building process I realised how much I enjoy physical work as well. We worked with the contractors on our builds, and it was so much fun! We did the electric fence ourselves, bound all the wire and mesh for the foundations and floors, and helped with the casting of the foundation and floors as well as the levelling. It just feels good to be able to do something with your hands.”

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