Henley Business School student Johannes van Heerden tells us how he grew up in a difficult household. He was a model student up until Grade 10, at which point his rebellious side kicked in. Despite what then developed into a lackadaisical attitude to his studies, he still passed with distinction. After a short stint in the hospitality industry, he entered the corporate world, and the opportunity for study presented itself: “For me, studying is essential part of my ongoing growth. From undergraduate courses to postgraduate courses, it’s not something that I have any intention of stopping. I’m curious by nature; that’s just me. So whether it’s a short course on Skillset or Sera, or the year-long ACMP certificate that I’m now taking at Henley, these are not business decisions as much as they’re simply a result of my nature to keep discovering. Call it an addiction,” he says, smilingly.
As a student who’s also working, Johannes is able to fit his studies into his work schedule, thanks to Henley’s study flexibility. He’s also benefited from receiving concentrated, compounded information over a shorter time span – half that, in fact, of the equivalent university course.
Because business school curricula have a more hands-on, practical approach, Johannes found that he could apply his daily learnings within his working environment, on a daily basis. He likened these new concepts to a child getting a new toy: “As soon as you get it, you want to play with it!” That said, he’s quite aware that one has to think about how and when to best deploy each new skillset.
Business school, he discovered, places importance on the individual, leading him to increased introspection and a careful examination of how he approaches challenges. “I learned,” he says, “to contextualise myself; whether within my workspace or socially. The course has taught me a lot about how I see myself in relation to the world around me.”
Johannes found that his biggest take-away from the first block of the ACMP undergraduate course was the ‘Oprah method’: “I already had a very similar approach as to why I was doing things, but was unaware that there was actually a formal process that allowed me to structure that thinking, to bring order to chaos. For me, it wasn’t new territory so much as a useful and logical packaging of methods that I’d already loosely used. Now I just naturally follow those steps; it’s become second nature.”
Henley’s course also places an accent on the concept of self mastery; a vital part of one’s EQ. “The leadership value of this is enormous,” Johannes stresses, “as self mastery leads one to seeing qualities in oneself that that one can also pass on to others, thus teaching them to be become the best versions of themselves.”
Perhaps the most powerful difference in Johannes’s approach to his work, since starting this course, is that he’s walked away from fear: “The most important thing is to take action, and realise that even our most feared outcome is within the realm of our coping. I think that many of us are held back by ourselves, more than anything else.”
The Action Learning Programme module of the course has taught Johannes the value of having faith; of putting trust in others. Although it’s only a relatively small part of the course, the ALP, for Johannes, is the “bigger platform” of it, as students get to practise all the elements that they’ve learnt, in their real-world environments. His weakness, he believes, was to aggressively lead from the front, often dragging people behind him who weren’t quite sharing or grasping his vision.
“Sometimes,” he reminds us, “we need to know when and how to lead from the back – to slow down and carefully share our vision.” His chosen strategy now, is to take people who are not accustomed to leadership roles, and give them the knowledge, support, confidence, and tools to lead from the front. “This is as big a part of leadership as leading from the front. Empowerment through empowering others.” Having benefited from the more introspective, personal approach to business that business school provides, Johannes plans to tackle the PiL next, and then step up from an undergraduate level to Henley’s postgraduate PgDip, and, ultimately, MBA. “I have no intention of reaching a particular height and not continuing to reach.”