Learn, unlearn, relearn (Part 6): What the professionals say about building leadership practices

Forget chasing the points or beefing up your CV. Lifelong learning is now a requirement for executives and thinking professionals marching confidently into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Executives revealed to Kate Ferreira.

Cheryl Molefe is an alumna of the UCT GSB Executive Women in Leadership course. She is an engineer at AngloAmerican who currently works in business intelligence for the group. “To be impactful in my new role of supporting a new structured way of working in the organisation (which depends highly on people making paradigm shifts), I realised I needed more than the technical know hows,” she says. The EWIL course met those needs, she adds.

“The programme is all about building leadership practices for increased visibility, impact and contribution, with great focus on all the intangible leadership levers I was looking for. I had no idea that the program cut so deep into me as a person, starting with a personal foundation and then translating my personal practices into organisational value.”

For Cheryl, what set it apart for her is the delivery approach which is all about embedding the theory and concepts into lived experience. “You learn by doing,” she says. “For example, having real conversations rather than role play, and in observing yourself in action.” Finally, she says that she learnt to make space for herself, her personality, her ways in developing her leadership skills. Leadership learnings were about harnessing her own personal uniqueness, because “leadership and personality don’t exist in isolation”.

Another graduate of UCT GBS is Wendy Parsons, the CFO for Kouga Wind Farms. She says the decision to take on further studies was informed by her feeling like she was “struggling to transition” from a previous role in management to that of an executive. “I would get frustrated with colleagues that didn’t seem to have my drive and urgency, and I was keen to learn fresh leadership ideas and approaches. I needed help to slow down in order to achieve more and prioritise,” she explains.

Through the course, she says she realised that she was in fact doing other people’s work and taking on too much responsibility. “ I learned how to give the person with the problem the power to solve it themselves.” 

Meeting other like-minded women was a bonus of her studies, as was the readings and materials, especially the book Essentialism by Greg Mckeown. “I felt like the author dedicated it to me,” she says.