The Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership (ALCRL) in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences hosted the International Leadership Association’s (ILA) first conference in Africa. The conference was attended by international delegates, most of whom were from the United States of America and Europe.
The main theme of the conference focussed on the next-generation leadership. This was highlighted in Prof Derick de Jongh’s (Director of the ALCRL) opening address. He reflected on the different demographic dynamics in Africa compared to elsewhere in the world because Africa’s median age is 19 compared to Europe where the average age is around 52. Based on Africa being a very 'young' continent, he emphasised the passion, energy and potential of its youth but also made a strong call for our individual and collective responsibility in developing the next generation of leaders for Africa.
The conference also aimed at understanding how the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals linked with developing the leadership capacity of the global youth to engage in issues in governments, business and society. The conference echoed the ALCRL’s mission to develop responsible leaders in support of social and environmental justice and the ILA’s mandate to promote a deep understanding of leadership and best practices for the greater good of societies around the world.
Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Cheryl de la Rey officially opened the conference and welcomed delegates to the University of Pretoria. She highlighted the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals as a global framework and emphasised the University’s commitment to providing research which matters in this arena, such as UP’s Future Africa campus which will house approximately 300 master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral candidates involved in cross disciplinary research that is focussed on solving some of Africa’s key priorities.
Former Vice-Chancellor of UP, Dr Johan van Zyl, the CEO of Africa Rainbow Capital and Ubuntu-Botho Limited and former Sanlam CEO gave his insights into leadership and the synergies between the corporate and academic worlds. Dr Van Zyl focussed on the idea that leadership is about taking responsibility and that values underpin leadership. He said that very often a failure of leadership is a failure of values. In keeping with the theme of the conference, he said that students need to understand the role that they play and be active citizens in society to build leadership capacity within themselves and consequently society.
Other speakers at the conference included:
- Ms Cynthia Cherrey (ILA CEO and President);
- Prof Elsabe Loots, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at UP; and
- Prof Mary Uhl-Bien, the BNSF Railway Endowed Professor of Leadership at the Neeley School of Business.
Numerous panel discussions were held and focussed on a range of topics which included the need for individual and social activism in leading change; youth leadership in the form of student activism; exploring leadership in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals; mindfulness and well-being in leadership, mentoring youth leaders to support sustainable communities and what leadership means to South African youth; and the implications for shaping leaders of tomorrow.