Change the world


Nelson Mandela University Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences department head Dr Ayanda Deliwe reflects on what makes someone a leader.
In the year 2021, if someone had told me that in 2022 I was going to be in a leadership position, I would have laughed at them. 
Well, look where I am now: I lead the Department of Business Management, the biggest department in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences, the biggest faculty at Nelson Mandela University.
Given the leadership challenges the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is facing, not to mention those which South Africa, the UK, the US and Russia among others are currently experiencing, it’s important to look at what builds leadership.
Those of us who aspire to leadership positions must learn what the keys to success are. 
Then, once we are there, we have a responsibility to help and support younger people so they can step up and have their voices heard. 
When the year 2021 started, my biggest academic goal was to improve my research outputs and become an Associate Professor in the next five years. 
However, in the second semester of 2021, my head of department approached me to apply for his post. I got the job but when I signed the appointment letter I started to have sleepless nights.
Imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome kicked in, with every negative thought making me doubt my ability to lead a department of 21 colleagues. 
I had to remind myself of what I had formulated during my leadership coaching sessions at our University: “I deserve to be here and I am enough”. 
The first week was the toughest but amazing support from colleagues kept me going. 
I spent over an hour in one-on-one sessions with each colleague, understanding them, their work  and their passions and interests. 
Of course, if you ask for feedback, you also need to be transparent, making sure that your staff know they have been heard. It is very important to engage with others.
During the first month I felt as if I was not coping as emails and tasks flooded in. 
Because I am a person who, when in doubt, consults, I asked others how they did it and that helped immensely. Do not be afraid to ask for help. 
I also realised I had to take it step by step because as the Director of the School Management Sciences said to me: “How do you eat an elephant? You eat it piece by piece”. There is no other productive way.
Trust and delegate
Then, I had to trust people and delegate. If there's someone who can do it better, ask that person – and then trust them to do what you have asked.
It is not weakness to get support as then you can concentrate on the leadership aspects of your job.
If you want to live an impactful life, and I do, what better way than through a leadership position? 
A manager ensures the department runs smoothly and efficiently, but I want to be more than a manager. 
Years from now, I want to know I also have contributed to the development of staff and students. 
What is stopping you from being that kind of leader? When we see challenges, sometimes we just want to run away, but they actually force you to learn faster, and help you to grow. 
We all lead in some way
If you unpack what leadership is, you will see that, whether you like it or not, every one of us at some point does play a leadership role.
When I was a kid in my neighborhood, for example, I opened up a “school” (because I love teaching) in our backyard. I used to set assignments and exams at the end of each term, and even made reports for the kids to take home. 
So, even though I never saw myself as a leader, I've always tried to develop others.
We need to move away from the status quo that academic leadership is not for people younger than 40. Today’s era is different, young people have opportunities, so let us step up and lead.
I am 39 and have just marked 100 days in academic leadership.
How to view challenges 
It is not the challenges that should define you. It is your view on those challenges.
For example, I have a husband and two children,  the baby is just two years old, and one common remark from colleagues when I started in this position was: “you are brave”. 
However, being a wife and a mother, as well as a leader, keeps me sane. I draw my strength from knowing that, after a long day at work, I have a family to go home to who will help me unwind.  
Let us choose to rather see the glass as half full and stop asking yourself “who am I to …?” 
Change your mindset, because you should be asking “who am I not to …?”
If you want this world to change it starts with an individual. And that individual is YOU. 
• Dr Ayanda Deliwe heads the Department of Business Management in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha

Contact information
Dr Ayanda Deliwe
Head of Department and Senior Lecturer in Business Management
Tel: 041 504 2021