UCT to research new ways of doing business

A new Chair at the University of Cape Town (UCT) business school, funded by Allan Gray and his wife, sets out to explore new ways of doing business.

UCT announced this week that Walter Baets, Director of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (GSB), has been awarded the Allan Gray Chair in Values-based Leadership. The position is effective from January 2014.

The university’s statement said the Chair, located in the Allan Gray Centre for Values-based Leadership at the GSB is the first of its kind in South Africa. It will explore new ways of doing business, based on purpose and sustainability, that create dignity and belonging.

The funder, Allan Gray, is the founder of Allan Gray Limited and co-founder of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

According to Gray, values-based leadership involves a fundamental questioning of the principles by which the world has been doing business and the Chair will explore what is required for the generation of new business and economic practices that are geared towards adding more value to society.

“I am extremely pleased with the committee’s decision to appoint Walter Baets. With Walter we have someone who is passionate about the subject of values-based leadership – and can put the Centre on the right path. Alongside this is his ability to inspire others – and considering that a main aim of the Centre is to ensure that the lessons are taken further into society, this is invaluable for the role,” said Gray.

Baets’ responsibilities will include giving academic leadership and establishing a research agenda for the Centre. “The right questions need to be asked,” said Baets. “For example, what does it mean for a company to embrace values-based leadership – what are the tools, and the mindsets needed? The Centre will explore these questions and develop the appropriate responses.”

The Chair will be complemented by two senior lecturers and two PhD bursaries. It will focus on more than just research and development – there will be active interaction and collaboration between the Centre and the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and to some extent with Allan Gray Limited. At the same time, the foundation will benefit from the fresh research and input to improve its endeavours. Baets also hopes to spread the information into the operation of other businesses, by including research output on modules on the GSB’s acclaimed Executive Education programmes.

Baets added that the Chair and the Centre are a bold step for business education on the continent, even the world. “Not many business schools have a values-based leadership faculty, and collaborating with Allan Gray, an organisation that has always held values as integral to its mission, our symbiotic relationship will ensure that we shape leaders who can develop new solutions to intractable challenges,” he said.

Coming, as it does, at the time of the death of Nelson Mandela, one of the world’s great acknowledged values-based leaders, the awarding of the new Chair is apposite, he added, as it will give new impetus to the work of living out Mandela’s legacy in the world of business.

Gray said that Baets is ideally suited to the role. “When I read his and his wife, Erna’s book, Rethinking Growth: Social Intrapreneurship for Sustainable Performance, I was astounded to find an academic echoing my colleagues and my own thoughts on the matter as practiced by Allan Gray Limited ever since its formation 40 years ago. That was largely how the Centre came about – a meeting of mutual minds.”

Baets and his wife, Erna Oldenboom, recently published another, free-to-download book, Values Based Leadership in Business Model Innovation, which acts as a hands-on book for practicing managers, and further unpacks the importance of a paradigm shift towards values based leadership.

Gray added that Baets, along with a sincere passion for the subject, brings a treasure chest of academic expertise and connections to the role: “There is a lot of great thinking taking place in universities – but it needs to be translated into business and society. Walter is adept at doing this – he breathes and sleeps the need for values-based thinking, and having the Centre based at Africa’s top business school means the Centre is perfectly positioned for maximum effect.”


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