Love, Forgiveness Keys to Educator's Leadership
Leading a South African university forward in the wake of a racially charged hazing video created a challenge for Vice Chancellor Jonathan Jansen upon his appointment to the post, but he embraced it with a spirit that proved infectious.
Staff members recall Jansen’s inaugural speech, when he referenced the incident then added: “I’m forgiven, therefore I forgive.”
It was a signature moment for Jansen, who has won over the campus and community at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa with a simple but focused leadership style based on some bedrock concepts:
A few strategic initiatives at a time, focused on key change impact; focus on both human and academic advancement, trust and delegation of authority and an open spirit that values getting to know people and hearing their thoughts and criticisms openly.
“He’s a real transformational leader,” says Frans Swanepoel, director for research and development. “it’s not too difficult to internalize the values and goals of such a person – with his vision, Jonathan makes it easy for us to follow.”
“It really is about love instead of regulatory and administrative and management stuff, which I consider secondary to the heart of the leader,” Jansen says. “Love to me is so central to drawing out positive and productive relationships.”
Nida Jooste, a student leader, adds that Jansen “comes off his pedestal as vice chancellor at the university and says ‘I’m just a teacher.’ “
She praises his heart-first approach and willingness to let student leaders take initiative as keys to healing the campus community.
“People are scared of universities,” says Choice Makhetha, vice rector of external relations. “But with Jonathan, he makes you feel like the university is your kitchen. His strategy is very straightforward, and everybody shares it – you must care about another person and make a plan to help another person.”
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Governing Professions.