What are leaders doing now to equip themselves with skills needed for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

That was the question posed by banking industry expert Dr David Schwegmann at the recent business lecture hosted by the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L) in partnership with Nedbank.

The lecture themed: Harnessing Leadership Competencies to Ride the Wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was part of an annual series facilitated by GSB&L’s Adjunct lecturer Dr Abdulla Kader and delivered by Schwegmann, who is a UKZN alumnus and now Managing Executive of Nedbank’s retail branch network in South Africa.

This collaboration between the business school and industry is part of the GSB&L’s ongoing strategy of ensuring that its staff and students have insights into business challenges, processes, best practices and other similar critical issues.

‘As leaders, we more often than not interact with people face to face, but in the fourth industrial revolution and the digital world shift, the interaction will be virtual and that is a skill that cannot be taught,’ said Schwegmann. ‘Leadership competencies for the future require an ability to connect at home, work and in our societies, and to embrace the culture of agile work, hyper collaboration and digital acumen. These are the realities of the digital world that we are moving further into.’

To illustrate his point about practical leadership transformation, Schwegmann drew from the wealth of experience he has accrued from his role which consists of managing a network of 468 Nedbank branches across South Africa. He incorporated insights from case studies consisting of research conducted by the bank when they restructured their retail and relationship banking section and how they implemented John Kotter’s eight steps of change model to normalise the transition.

‘One of the key things leaders require for the fourth Industrial Revolution is to appreciate that interconnectedness is important. This is why I am sharing with you our change story because I believe that of the various leadership competencies, change is going to be the most important leadership trait required if leaders are to survive the fourth industrial revolution,’ said Schwegmann.

During question and answer time MCom Graduate, Mr Sthembiso Mbambo raised the topical question of how forums such as these can be less instructive and more developmental. Instead of answering, Schwegmann challenged Mbambo to be part of the solution by looking at ways of collaboration and engaging with mentorship programmes that will translate theory into practice.

GSB&L’s Associate Professor Kriben Pillay said platforms such as the lecture were critical in driving engagement around the School, providing a relevant curriculum for the world’s future business leaders.

‘Tertiary education institutions all over the world are questioning the curriculum of management education,’ said Pillay. ‘This is a result of a revolution taking place in all domains of life as we struggle with an unravelling that is becoming increasingly complex and tumultuous. As a business school, we are aware of the changes brought about by the digital revolution and are committed to ensuring that our curriculum changes with it.’

Words: Lungile Ngubelanga

Photograph: Sakhile Fatyi