The success of any organisation largely depends on the strength of its leadership. This was the main message of the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Dr Manyane Makua, who raised the roof as he was addressing more than 200 delegates that attended the 10th annual Focus Conference that took place off campus, from 23-25 August 2023. Dr Makua lamented the lack of good leadership in all parts of the society and emphasized this lack of leadership within the government, in different sectors within the country, and how this fact affects higher education.
Dr Makua said that leadership was not about positions, but about the relevance and the required qualities that leaders should have. “Leadership becomes less about position and more about engagement and action … and practice,” he quoted one of the experts.
He said that that was what constitutes leadership, “You are either a leader or not a leader,” he said. ‘Leadership’, by definition, is positive. Dr Makua said that the higher education sector needed leaders that would understand the sector, and then take the right decisions. These are leaders who can face the challenges, and find solutions, not leaders who “bury their heads in the sand” and hope the problems would go away. They have a vision, he said.
In the higher education sector, Dr Makua emphasised the need for all levels of leadership to work together towards the common goals. He said a malfunction in the chain of leadership in a university, for instance, would result in adverse results that would affect the core business of the institution, it did not matter what level of leadership that would be, he said. Dr Makua said that research on higher education indicated that there were “challenges” in the sector.
True to his academic background, Dr Makua continued to quote several writers that have commented on leadership. He said: “A central tenet of leadership-as-practice decentralises leadership away from an individual, usually pre-established as the leader, and repositions leadership as an outcome rather than a prerequisite of practice involving more than one person and non-human artefacts,” again quoting another expert writer in the subject.
For Dr Makua, staff involved in the higher education sector must spend some time reading about leadership. There is plenty of literature available that staff can consult. Some of the literature includes religious books. Dr Makua quoted from one of these books. According to Dr Makua, leadership should not be a positive coincidence; it must be based on a planned effort which is guided by some foundation, so it does not crumble, but achieve its set aims.
Dr Makua’s presentation was highly appreciated by the delegations, and well supported by a panel that was asked to respond to it. The members of the panel were the University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Marcus Ramogale, the Administrator of the University, Professor Laurens van Staden, and Professor Mahlapahlapana Themane from the University of Limpopo. In his response, Professor Ramogale said people in general, should stop thinking that problems emanate from outside; they needed to look from within to find solutions to their problems.