GIBS has introduced a Master’s programme in Change Leadership

GIBS lecturer Dorothy Ndletyana says business schools must teach leaders to anticipate major change events.

Even before 2020, the writing was on the wall. For years, organisations were cajoling leaders to adapt, to change, to innovate, to develop cross-sectional and strategic competencies. In this increasingly complex world, organisations require leaders who can anticipate and enable organisational change to take advantage of new opportunities.

Fortunately, before businesses around the world were impacted by lockdowns, virtual teams, furlough schemes and digital work, the world’s leading business schools had begun to recognise that academic and executive education offerings had to adapt in step with fast-moving world trends.

The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) joined these ranks by embarking on the exacting task of refreshing the business school’s offerings to better reflect a technological, digital, and disrupted tomorrow. Among other changes, GIBS introduced the MPhil in Change Leadership in early 2020.

With the introduction of the MPhil in Change Leadership, the school was able to provide leaders with the opportunity to cultivate the necessary knowledge, skills and experiences to enable them to drive change in a wide range of organisations and a variety of situations.

The programme was designed to bring together organisation-oriented change leadership content with a deep focus on more personal competencies.

These change leaders are expected to confidently navigate the digitally disruptive new world of work, emerging markets as well as have the capacity to lead exciting innovations.

“The world is going through a period of marked change and transition, resulting in environmental, social, economic and technological changes,” Dr Dorothy Ndletyana, lecturer at GIBS said.

The rate and pace of this change has accelerated enormously, and comes with immense complexity. One of the fundamental drivers of change is technology, Dr Ndletyana said, which impacts how business operates as well as the products and services it is expected to provide.

“Business schools need to design programmes that teach leaders how to anticipate major change events, how to plan strategy and prepare people for disruption, whilst still being effective and creative.”

Growing the leadership base
Research released by Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning in late 2020 affirmed that organisations looking for long-term success have to develop leaders of this ilk; individuals “who let go of past assumptions and embrace emerging paradigms.”

This was the only way to bridge the gap between uncertainty and emerging opportunities, noted the researchers.

But most leaders need help. And that’s why business schools need to step up by ensuring the skills and insights being imparted to students will enable them to deal effectively with ongoing change and transformation at an unprecedented pace.

In a special report, Covid-19 Heightens the Leadership Gap, Harvard determined that the gap had widened between leaders who had excelled during the crisis and those who had faltered.

This underlined the need to develop leaders with the capabilities required to thrive in a new world of work. After all, these leaders will go on to face profound and far-reaching changes when it comes to the nature of workplaces as well as dealing with a range of issues from supply-chain resilience to revenue impacts, staffing needs, industry collaboration, unpredictable demand and the impact of government responses.

The organisation-oriented material includes a focus on strategy as well as new organisational dynamics. It also includes business innovation and change management methodologies.

The thrust of the programme is not on the change management process itself, but rather recognises that the organisation is organic and alive, and aims to give participants a repertoire of tools to lead change holistically.

The MPhil in Change leadership was designed to develop senior leaders who are human-centric and able to drive change in a wide range of organisations and a variety of situations through adaptive leadership capabilities.

Furthermore, while working at a strategic organisational level, the programme provides opportunity for deeply personally transformative development through the inclusion of the professional coaching competency.

“Designing organisations that place people at the centre means capturing their true potential and that of the organisation. In the new world of work people will need new skills and competencies, and both the ability to lead change and knowing how to work effectively with people will be critical,” Dr Ndletyana said.

The programme is targeted at leaders across organisational functions such as human resources, strategy and organisational development. These individuals are responsible for the change efforts of their organisations, or are in industries experiencing rapid and dramatic change.

Core courses offered on the programme include: developing self and others; leading innovation and organisational change; and contextual disruption and business strategy.

The programme also enables participants to enhance their research capability by enabling them to contribute meaningfully to scholarly change leadership debates through the submission of a dissertation on the Leadership of Change.

The year 2020 marked a pivot time in human leadership. As we move from survival into our new reality, leaders have to fine-tune their capabilities and master the skills required for the future.

These are key differentiators which globally-recognised programmes and business schools know and understand, and right now they are the magic elixir required by leaders around the world.