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Business: The Foundation for Great Leaders


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Wits Business School is the Leadership Partner to this initiative, which includes the 2009 Mentorship Skills for Leadership Programme, which strives to develop South Africa's future leaders through sharing knowledge and experience, mentorship, coaching and evaluation.

The concept is the brainchild of Alison Gregg, founder of Alison Gregg Public Relations, who has a passion for developing South Africa's next cadre of leaders. She believes that our current leaders have much value to impart in terms of lessons learned, but that the opportunities to do so in a meaningful and sustainable manner are limited.

This year, twenty hand-selected, experienced CEOs will each choose a mentee to accompany them to Indigo Bay for a weekend of coaching, learning and debate - and a bit of sporting fun, of course! The weekend, however, is just the beginning. Upon their return, both mentors and mentees will attend a monthly full-day workshop at Wits Business School, Leadership Partner to the initiative, which will cover various aspects of leadership, such as Strategic Thinking, Assessment, Negotiation Skills and Self- Development, amongst others.

The workshops will provide the mentors with the opportunity to meet with specially selected coaches from Wits Business School, and discuss with them their challenges and successes in mentoring their chosen mentee, as well provide the mentees with a structured learning experience. Both mentor and mentee will participate in a monthly reporting and feedback exercise that will allow the coaches to track their progress, while identifying possible challenge areas, as well as opportunities for further learning.

Natalie Witthuhn, Director of the Leadership Development Centre at Wits Business School, says that the initiative and its process are designed to be sustainable and lasting, and to leave a legacy and an impact. "The process begins with Council Debates in August 2009 at Indigo Bay, and is followed by a programme entitled 'Mentorship Skills for Leadership'," she says. "Aside from this programme, mentees will also work on an Action Learning Project (ALP), which is designed to extend their learning from the programme back into the workplace."

Witthuhn strongly believes that developing leadership in South Africa is the key to transforming our economy. "True leaders inspire people by giving them hope, and this has a long term effect, as opposed to just motivating someone, the effects of which are usually short term," she says. "True leaders have the ability to pull people together and unite them in action.

This is so important in a country such as ours that struggles with various issues such as talent retention, the current economic climate and crime. We require people to lead with integrity - we need values-driven leadership."

Witthuhn mentions what she sees as the three critical components to effective leadership - knowledge, skill and attitude. "Many leadership development courses focus only on knowledge," she says. "While the theory is important, and cannot be left out, skill and attitude are equally important, and also need attention when developing leaders. It is also important to remember that if a leader wants to be exceptional, he or she has to be authentic."

The vision that Wits Business School has for this initiative is for an awareness to be developed within leading CEOs of what they are doing that is making them successful, for them to reflect on this, and then transfer it to young leaders. "This will ensure that gaining knowledge becomes a sustainable process, based on real-life experiences," she concludes. "It is exciting that the programme will appreciate the contribution that successful leaders can make - it will be a true partnership between applied leadership and academic theory, which makes it so different from other programmes."

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