Home > Prof Msengana-Ndlela appointment key to Public Leadership and Development Policy programmes
Prof Msengana-Ndlela appointment key to Public Leadership and Development Policy programmes
1 Mar 2016 - 08:00
Respected civil servant, Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, has been appointed as Adjunct Professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She has a professional relationship with UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (GSDPP), including facilitating key courses. Prof Msengana-Ndlela will continue to play an important role in GSDPP’s programmes, including participation in seminars on Leading in Public Life, research and courses on Evidence-based Policymaking and Implementation.
Prof Msengana-Ndlela said that her appointment signals a mode of teaching, learning and research in universities such as UCT that seeks to engage and benefit from real-time knowledge and experience of professionals involved in development policy.
“The appointment provides an opportunity for me to work with scholars, students and communities of practice in contributing towards new knowledge production and effective development policy. My main goal is to engage in research and teaching initiatives which draw on local and international scholarly collaborations to contribute in tackling some of the pertinent development problems that humanity faces, more so in South Africa and the African continent,” said Prof Msengana-Ndlela.
Prof Msengana-Ndlela is a Special Advisor to the Minister of Science and Technology, a position she has held since 2013. She holds a BCom, UED (Rhodes), BEd, MBL (Unisa) and a PhD (Warwick, UK).
“I believe that we can, individually and collectively, contribute in the restoration of human dignity and improving the quality of life, particularly the lives of the poor and the marginalised communities in our society. It is within this context that I hope my academic involvement with UCT will have a positive impact on development policy curriculum design and its delivery, taking into consideration local practice and global intellectual perspectives,” Prof Msengana-Ndlela said.
GSDPP Director, Prof Alan Hirsch, said that Prof Msengana-Ndlela has led by example during her long career in the public service, with a track record that exemplifies her commitment to developing ethical leadership.
“We feel that through the contribution that she has already made in UCT’s programmes, that she will be able to convey her learning to the emerging leaders in Africa’s public sector,” said Prof Hirsch.
Prof Msengana-Ndlela has held managerial leadership and accounting officer roles in organisations located all three spheres of government in South Africa, including that of Director General in the former National Department of Provincial and Local Government, and City Manager of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Port Elizabeth. She is also a former board member of the Development Bank of Southern Africa and has served in high-level committees as Chairperson of the Technical Committee to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Local Government Minister’s Forum and Chairperson of the Technical Committee to the Presidents Coordinating Council.
One of the key motivating factors behind Prof Msengana-Ndlela’s work, both within the public sector and in academia relates to the building and nurturing of credible leadership models that can help address the development challenges in the African continent.
She says that although public leadership is sometimes identified with prominent individuals, and seen as a combination of personal attributes, it is also important to view leadership as a process of working towards the attainment of societal goals. Accordingly, “Leadership models range from the study of personal and behavioural approaches of ‘leaders’ to the recognition of context and viewing leader ‘ship’ as a multi-faceted social process. All of these aspects of these approaches can help deepen our understanding and debates about leadership.”
Talking about the content of the Leading in Public Life course and how she defines leadership, Prof Msengana-Ndlela said that, “It is useful to define ‘leadership’ as a process of influencing and mobilising individuals, groups and institutions to build on strengths and resources, tackle complex problems, take informed decisions and develop the capacity to act in order to address such problems effectively.”
In the face of socio-economic problems the African continent and the need for leadership, Prof Msengana-Ndlela believes that “one important avenue to address this problem that has not received sufficient attention and to the level that is required, is the development of effective leadership programmes and in recognition of the growing significance of the agency of leaders.” She says an optimistic view about the possibilities of leadership agency is critical in building on the continent’s strengths and resources such as natural and human resources, particularly as Africa has a relatively youthful demographic when compared to some parts of the world. Prof Msengana-Ndlela also considers drawing on indigenous knowledge systems, creativity and diversity as some of the key drivers for development.
“When exercised effectively, leadership processes seek to recognise and positively build on development progress, strengths and resources. This means that, in seeking to understand the exercise of leadership, we have to maximise our strengths and interrogate the consequences of leadership in society. This understanding about the meaning of leadership recognises impediments that are imposed by structural considerations but highlights the agency of leadership in development. My argument is that there are reasons to be optimistic about the possibilities of leadership. However, we have to act on this knowledge by developing effective leadership capacity across all sectors of society” says Prof Msengana-Ndlela.
Asked to comment on ethics and leadership, Prof Msengana-Ndlela believes that individual behaviour is critical to developing ethical leadership.
“The personal characteristics of leaders, the values and principles which guide them are important and cannot be overemphasised. Leadership is not value-free, it is value-critical. This means that leaders in public life must endeavour to uphold, amongst other things, the highest levels of integrity and ethical agency as they perform public duties and manage public resources. In my experience, the policy and legislative frameworks of the public service are a useful basis and guide in empowering both political leaders and managers to promote the values of accountability and service to the people,” said Prof Msengana-Ndlela.
Emphasizing the impact of effective public leadership on the lives of the people, Prof Msengana-Ndlela said that “Leadership processes in public life are expected to benefit society as a whole and in a developmental context like ours, effective leadership can contribute to the lived reality of the poor as they experience an improved quality of life,” said Prof Msengana-Ndlela.
Public leadership training programmes can help bridge the gap between theory and practice. Part of this comes from developing policy that benefits from research, in addition to other inputs in complex policy processes, implementation, monitoring and evaluating impact. Crucially, leaders themselves need to engage with the public and various communities of practice locally and internationally.