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Wits Mining Institute: empowering leaders

As the mining sector gains pace despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Wits Mining Institute (WMI) will be hosting two of its ‘Empowering Leaders’ short courses in 2021 – in a face-to-face format.

The first three-day course, to be run from 23 to 28 August 2021, will focus on long-term systems thinking and planning in the minerals sector. This equips leaders with skills and insights to understand, anticipate and respond to the challenges of 21st century mining – including the development of scenarios and strategies.

WMI course presenter Julie Courtnage highlights that SA mining culture is rooted in its historical context, with top-down management styles, linear thinking, and insufficient flexibility or adaptability. This limits the sector’s capacity to successfully meet the demands of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) with sound strategic and operational decision-making.

“In volatile social and economic conditions like those experienced in the SA mining sector, it is vital to understand root causes when developing management strategies,” said Courtnage. “Uncertainty arising from the national regulatory landscape and international commodity fluctuations also impact on management approaches.”

According to WMI Visiting Professor Fred Cawood, introducing technology into this environment poses challenges at all levels of leadership, complicating the sector’s advance into the 21st century. He emphasised the need for minerals-sector leaders to understand this global VUCA context, and to develop skills to address longer-term issues and consequences.

“This short course will allow participants to engage with key topics such as the implications of Industry 4.0 for the minerals market, as well as mining in the circular economy and the growing social expectations of the sector,” said Professor Cawood. “It will also highlight the importance of systems thinking in the mining industry.”

The focus of the WMI’s second course, from 4 to 8 October 2021, will be on transformed leadership – concentrating on integrity, accountability and participatory engagement. The course will help delegates to understand leadership as an individual, within the context of their organisations and broader society.

“We will explore how self-awareness contributes to leadership, and the role of self-leadership in ethical decision-making and organisational performance,” said Courtnage. “Leadership is about influence and change – so it is the leader who must change first.”

She said the qualities of self-leadership support decision-makers in engaging with a range of stakeholders, often with different or even conflicting perspectives. she said. Self-leadership was also vital in managing the trust deficit between stakeholders in mining.

“Indicators of low self-leadership, like defensiveness and reactivity, will undermine constructive relationships,” she warned.

Professor Cawood emphasised that personal mastery was fundamental to a successful career, and that this course was about people getting the basics right – including ethics and personal value systems.

In presenting these courses, Courtnage shares her 30 years of valuable experience as an environmental scientist and sustainable development practitioner in the mining sector. Her past roles have included SHE Policy Manager and Sustainable Development Operations Manager for the global Anglo American group. She has developed and delivered numerous leadership courses for Masters degree, Executive Education and MBA programmes.

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