UKZN Staffer Follows Example of Colleagues and Completes Master’s Degree

Smangele Ninela
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance Principal Administrative Officer, Ms Smangele Ninela.

Working in an environment where academic and support staff regularly further their studies spurred UKZN employee Ms Smangele Ninela to do a master’s degree.

It’s now all done and dusted and the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance Principal Administrative Officer has qualified for a Master of Commerce in Leadership Studies degree.

‘My colleagues from the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance are continuously engaged in self-development, be it furthering their studies or climbing the academic ladder,’ said Ninela. ‘This culture of “learning” is deeply instilled by the Dean and Head of School Professor Mabutho Sibanda. Hence, a year before I registered for my master’s degree, I got a call from Professor Bomi Nomlala questioning why my name was not on the Graduation programme, suggesting that I should get that right in the near future. So I completed the application form that very day and the rest is history,’ she said.

Her research study titled: The Role of Theory U in Developing Leadership Skills to Navigate Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity in the University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, was supervised by Professor Cecile Gerwel Proches and inspired by the late Professor Kriben Pillay.

The aim of the study was to identify leadership challenges emanating from COVID-19 in the School and to examine how Theory U could be incorporated into the decision-making process in order to assist leaders navigate through these challenges. 

‘Theory U has been globally recognised as an exceptionally embracing, broad-minded school of thought that surpasses the conventional literature on leadership theories,’ said Ninela.

‘Literature proposes that Theory U deals with issues of disruptive change from an individual-oriented approach.  It encourages individuals to suspend their judgments which are informed by encounters and old mind-sets, encouraging them to be open to the newness that is emerging. That personal transition generates correlated and parallel change at the larger organisational or societal level,’ she added.

With this qualification, Ninela has aspirations of growing her career, publishing journal articles and ultimately pursuing a PhD.

‘This qualification is a stepping stone in my career,’ she said. ‘The knowledge and skills acquired helped me to understand the intricacy of leadership, the importance of maintaining stakeholder relationships and the value of pursuing a common goal. They also taught me how to diversify my thinking approach, sharpen my ability to adapt, and prepared me for a management role.

‘I dedicate this achievement to my maternal grandmother who raised me. She unfortunately passed away last year.’

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan

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