NCC Directors, Linden Rhoda and Justin Miller recently completed their Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership Development. Their Graduate class included top management from major organisations such as ABSA, Standard Bank and Woolworths - just to name a few. They both received 95% for their final assessments which was the highest ever awarded by the lecturer in his 9 years of lecturing. Justin Miller received the award for top student.
We interview two of the NCC directors, Linden and Justin to find out more about their experience completing their Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership Development.
1. Tell us a bit more about the course and what it entailed?
Linden: This program focuses solely on leadership skills, and not managerial or technical skills. In researching my role at NCC, I realised that this qualification will enable me to establish or confirm a leadership culture that will help NCC to be sustainable. The programme was delivered over four on-campus blocks, spread over the year and focuses on the development of personal leadership, organisational leadership and societal leadership to strengthen you while you work on growing as a leader.
The course covered various leadership frameworks to demonstrate leadership diversity, and the dynamics of teams and how to form high impact teams while creating a high performance culture to achieve consistent high performance. The programme also looked at the successes and failures of transformation, and the role of business in society to contribute to active citizenship and social development. My favourite module was strategy, which looked at how you use strategy to drive execution and alignment across organisations.
I really enjoyed it, because it gave us the opportunity to use personal, work and life environments as places of learning and development.
Justin: As a Director of NCC, I recognised the need to significantly enhance my leadership capabilities. Linden did some research, and brought my attention to the Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership Development course being offered at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB). This specific programme was a first in its field in South Africa and for most business schools throughout the world. The core of the programme has been run within many well known organisations such as SABMiller, ABSA, Total, Imperial, Tiger Brands, etc. In 2007 USB introduced the pilot programme and since 2008 it has become a core of its MBA programme. Parts of this one year post graduate diploma have been conducted at Rotterdam School of Management in Holland.
So, while it was a new offering it was also based on wide based expertise and experience. In particular it drew on the experience and competence developed by offering it within organisations which have seen the value of its content and the capacity to enable individuals to significantly enhance their leadership capabilities. I was drawn to this programme, as it was based on global benchmarking and was at the cutting edge of developing leadership competence.
2. Did you find the course challenging and how did you balance your time between your daily role at NCC and completing assessments?
Linden: It was challenging and I balanced it with great difficulty. I had to sacrifice time with my family and friends, weekends and leave were used to write reports because it wasn’t possible to do all that work in the evenings. Some of the assignments we could do at work and staff definitely benefited from it. It did not derail me completely from my role at NCC, the irony is that it guided me in my work and it had so many linkages to what I needed to do on a daily basis. Writing up of the projects was very time consuming, but most of the activities and thinking was in line with what I need to do on a daily basis.
I could not afford to neglect my normal role at NCC, and I don’t think I did, or to neglect my immediate family (my wife & son). It was definitely a challenging course as almost half of the enrolled students didn’t complete the course. To give you an idea of the amount of time needed to complete the course, the final assessment was over 300 pages. The course did help me to better understand what is expected of me, and also the importance of a work/ life balance.
Justin: The course was challenging in so many ways. Firstly it threw us out of our comfort zones, forced us to have uncomfortable conversations and debates. Secondly, there wasn’t the typical studying, tests and exams that we’ve become accustomed to since school. Instead, we had to take the information we were provided with, try and implement specific tasks and then document the critical reflections emerging from the process. Finally, trying to find the time to work on our assignments was incredibly challenging. I recall our lecturer saying on the first day that we could anticipate to spend approximately 8 hours working on assignments, for every 1 hour in class. We were in class for approximately 275 hours, and looking back, I think his estimation was somewhat conservative. It didn’t help me that our daughter was born towards the end of the course, just when work towards the 300 page final assignment had to commence.
At times I honestly found it tough trying to balance time between my daily role at NCC and my assignments. Fortunately, my wife, Sheridan, and everyone at NCC was incredibly supportive and patient with me during this time. It was only my fitness and health that took a temporary blow, but I’m slowly starting to recover now. All our assignments were in some way either directed at ourselves or at NCC. As such, many of the key learnings, systems and processes that derived from our assignments could for the most part be used at NCC.
As Linden mentioned above, close to 50% of the students didn’t complete the course, despite some incredibly bright people that attended. We had a number of lawyers from Lipco and executives from a range of large organisations such ABSA, Standard Bank, ETV, Eskom, Goodyear, Medi-Clinic etc.
3. Where there any lessons/management techniques you learnt and plan to utilise at NCC?
Linden: The course reiterated that we must be purpose maximisers and not profit driven. If we keep to our WHY, our vision and mission, and use our values as a filter in everything we do, then we will keep both our staff and our clients that are aligned to our brand and the profit will follow. Our staff, as well as future generations that truly want Real Growth for People, Planet and Business, will benefit from this.
I also realised how important balance is, and I believe that the staff will benefit from that. We know that work isn’t everything but since we are spending the majority of the time with our colleagues etc. we need to work hard at making NCC a fun place… or create the space for our staff to have fun and balance in their work and personal lives.
I learnt that things in my past caused me to limit what I can achieve; I have told myself that I cannot do certain things. Those things are now highlighted for me, and I have put actions to them, to remove those blockages. The things in my past will no longer hold me back at achieving great things.
Justin: I certainly echo Linden’s comments above. There were so many lessons and insights that I am still trying to grapple with many of them, even after having already completed the course. I could quite confidently say that NCC’s culture and management style is almost a text book example of what many of the top international business guru’s are suggesting that companies adapt and follow if they are to remain truly sustainable. I’m further encouraged by the fact that it is certainly not the Directors’ doing, but rather the product of a company of leaders, all collaboratively co-creating solutions towards a common goal and purpose.
The ability for NCC to work in a collaborative and co-created manner, with all its stakeholders, is essential if we are to realise Real Growth of People, Planet and Business. NCC employees and partners need to work as a team, capitalising on one another’s strengths, and supporting one another when needed. We need to continue to develop a ‘talent-friendly’ culture and not be fearful of making mistakes.
I don’t believe many organisations appreciate the value in embracing and capitalising on diversity and transformation. Despite being an ethical decision, the innovation associated with diversity makes logical and business sense. As with almost every organisation, this is certainly an area that NCC can further develop and it should become a key element of our sustainable competitive advantage.
4. In your opinion and after completing this course what is your idea of a great leader?
Linden: A leader is somebody who is able to influence others to do good. For me, a great leader does not have to know everything, but he/ she must be true to him/herself and others - he/ she must be authentic. A position does not make you a leader, but how you act and the role you play does. Leadership is action, not a position. A great example is the general labourer at the office, although he is not a formal leader at work, he is a leader in his community because people look up to him. Leadership is an opportunity to serve, and it must be of the benefit of the followers.
“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity” - this quote from Warren Bennis sums it up for me: we have a responsibility that includes having the uncomfortable conversations and making the tough decisions and we must be aware that it will not always be the most popular decision.
Justin: For me, there were a number of take-home-messages. Most notably is that 'Leader’s aren’t born, they are developed'. Everyone has the potential to be a great leader, all you need to do is be courageous and own your voice. Bear in mind however, if you choose to be a leader, you need to accept that you will spend most of life being ignorant and incompetent. Leadership is the act of creative destruction, perpetually creating, improving and changing. Leaders are people that are infinitely courageous, and not fearful of making mistakes. Winston Churchill summed it up quite nicely by saying “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts”.
A great leader needs to understand both themselves and their followers and as such needs to develop a high level of emotional intelligence. Leaders need to allow collaboration and co-creation, and regularly invite dissent. If I look at many of our so called ‘leaders’ today, I’m not sure many of them fit the bill.
Obviously, if you are going to lead people, you need to have a good cause (a ‘WHY’). I think much of NCC’s success can be attributed to its inspirational ‘WHY’, rather than its leadership and management. As employees of NCC, we need to continue to strive towards our ‘WHY’, whilst developing our leadership and management skills. Great leaders will always have their followers’ best interests at heart, and as such need to continually find ways in which to uplift and develop their followers. This development of followers will ultimately ensure the sustainability of the ‘WHY’, as more competent and confident people will be striving towards the ultimate goal.