Presented by Wits Business School

The growing prominence of coaching in business schools

In the knowledge economy, continuous learning is the ‘holy grail’ of career advancement.  This is particularly true in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, where rapid, constant, and disruptive change has become the norm.

As Wits Business School’s Professor Brian Armstrong notes, in the changing world of work, we need to learn how to learn.

“In times of change our ability to keep learning – to stay current and refresh our capabilities – is perhaps even more important than the particular things we learn. A lot of old fashioned teaching was about the transfer of specific knowledge.  What is more important now is helping people help themselves to learn. We need to harness the ability to reinvent ourselves over and over, thereby staying relevant,” says Armstrong, who is Director of the Chair in Digital Business at WBS.

Executive coaching plays a role in helping executives not only manage change, but also stay on top of their game, which is why, in the changing world of work,  coaching is arguably even more important than ever.

Sir John Whitmore, a pioneer of the executive coaching industry, defined coaching as “unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”

A discipline that has developed and evolved radically in the last three decades, coaching has now become foundational to corporate success – organisations and companies understand that in order to progress they need to include coaching in the development of their leaders.

Business leaders, themselves, have had to learn how to coach and mentor others. The new world of work requires a new approach to management, a shift from the traditional hierarchical command-and-control model to one which requires managers to give support and guidance, rather than orders.  This is to help employees learn to adapt and thrive in constantly changing environments, and to encourage creative, innovative thinking and problem-solving.

As a sought-after skill in business, coaching, therefore, has found its way into the curricula of most business schools, either as a certificate course or an academic qualification.

Wits Business School was the first business school in Africa to offer a Master’s degree in business and executive coaching (MM-BEC), a programme which has seen significant uptake since its launch in 2010.  The programme, which is aligned to the Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching (GSAEC), provides a comprehensive foundation in coaching theory, literature and best practice while placing it firmly within a business and organisational development context.

“We recognise that executive coaching requires a depth of understanding of both individual needs as well as business needs.  Therefore, the programme encompasses the psychological theory underpinning coaching, as well as business principles and organisational development,” says Dr Jabulile Msimango-Galawe, Director of the MM-BEC at WBS. “Our Master’s programme is a unique opportunity for students to further their own self-awareness, and apply this knowledge towards the learning and development of others.”

The school’s Leadership and Coaching Development centre offers two certificate courses in coaching: Effective Coaching and Mentoring, and Coaching for Professional Development.

“Our focus is really on developing the immense talent in this country,” says Alison Foote, Director of Leadership and Coaching Development at WBS.  “Turning students into confident leaders who know how they can make a contribution to their organisations, as well as to their own leadership and coaching development. We take students through a process of intense reflection which results in major change in most cases, and students emerge confident and knowledgeable in their chosen leadership path and in a better position to coach others.”

In a world in flux, the role of executive coaching is set to increase in organisational development. Through ongoing research, Harvard Business Review has noticed that, as organisations transform themselves for the digital age, more and more companies are investing in training their leaders as coaches, and that coaching is becoming integral to the fabric of a learning culture.

“Increasingly, organisations are proactively developing their future leaders, and coaching is viewed as a primary tool for that development,” says Msimango-Galawe. “Coaching has really become a critical component for organisational competitive advantage and those who are slow to appreciate its value may wake up too late.”

Applications for the Master of Management in the Field of Business Executive Coaching close on 30 November 2019.  To find out more, visit

This article was published in partnership with Wits Business School.

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The growing prominence of coaching in business schools