Dr Charles du Toit is the Director of Charles du Toit and Associates and a faculty member at USB-ED. He is passionate about developing best practice in human resources and leadership. This week he shares his thoughts with us:
What has been your toughest leadership challenge to date?
"In my youth I was appointed the chairperson of the peace committee in Uitenhage. The committee worked behind the scenes to achieve some level of stability between the political parties on the ground while the African National Congress (ANC) and National Party (NP) crafted our constitution at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). When I asked the senior leadership what I should do, the simple response was: 'Do whatever you think you need to do.' As a result, this was the most empowering experience."
What would you say is the toughest leadership challenge facing businesses today?
"Beyond the pace of change and the need for agility, at a very practical level, I find organisations struggle with the 'challenge of the middle'. In many companies our senior executives have developed great strategies and are wondering why employees at the coal face are not able to deliver. At the same time the employees on the ground are working flat out, wondering why the executives are never happy. Frustratingly, in the middle, departmental managers don't lead and are unable to interpret strategy into deliverable actions – perhaps because short term Key Performance Indicators are driving their actions and their development."
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from a student?
"I was recently working with some shop floor team leaders. One of them complained that senior managers suffer from ignorance. When I asked him to clarify he explained that senior managers were 'ignoring' the junior leadership in the organisation as if they did not have opinions or something to offer."
What attracted you to becoming a faculty member at USB-ED?
"At the heart of what USB-ED does is a very practical desire to build great leaders for the future. That too is my personal calling."
Do you have a mantra or slogan that you live by?
"I like the quote by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (9 December 1906 – 1 January 1992): 'You manage things but lead people.'"
What career advice would you have given your younger self?
"Be brave. You will never regret stepping out of your comfort zone."