Integrity, accountability, responsibility – that is just a few of the characteristics of successful leaders … And if you could have a few minutes of time from some of the most admired leaders in our country … this is what they'll tell you about taking the lead:
Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of CellC
“People lead instinctively and intuitively – and it might sound general, but I don't think people lead in a academic sort of way. For example, if you walk into a place, you will have a perception of the place before you go there, but even as you're walking through the doors, your perceptions are changing - if it's not changing then there is something wrong with you.
As you walk down the corridors, as you meet people, as you shake people's hands, your perception continually changes, and so that which you want to do has to change all the time. This happens quickly and because of that, it has to happen instinctively and intuitively. If you're not comfortable leading that way then you may be a good leader for something else, but you won't be a good leader in a crisis.”
Adrian Gore, CEO of Discovery
“I believe leaders are positive and optimistic – this doesn't mean they walk around with a smile and never see obstacles or challenges. They have an innate belief that they can find a way. They have a positive disposition and, therefore, invariably make better decisions. Leaders make time to dream, think big and then set goals to get there. They have a sense of urgency – and innate understanding that time is limited and therefore act accordingly. They never stop learning – the more you learn, the more your capacity to learn increases. Successful leaders are persistent – they always feel they can squeeze out more time, productivity or profit. And leaders are honest – they have integrity.”
Moses Kgosana, CE of KPMG in South Africa
”We live in an interconnected world where our actions impact others and their actions impact us – the African philosophy of Ubuntu. While this clearly affects every one of us, leaders have a particular responsibility towards the people they serve. Leadership is a calling – requiring a clear commitment regardless of any personal adversities that may arise and a firm resolve to stay on course and to go the distance.
I owe a great deal to the late Dr Nthato Motlana – a man who inspired me as a role model and friend, and who I regard as one of South Africa's largely unsung heroes. Dr Motlana undoubtedly shaped my business thinking. Most importantly, he taught me to focus. I also learned how essential it is to know your own shortcomings and to seek help. A leader cannot be everything but has the driven ability to bring out the best in others”.
Maria Ramos, CEO of ABSA
Maria Ramos was once quoted as saying, “Working with Nelson Mandela, you learn very quickly that power is not something you use – it's something you are a custodian of.” Maria tells that she really believes that you can achieve much if you understand that leadership is more about service than about the exercise of power. If you want to be a successful leader, you must surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Leaders must be close to the people they lead, provide guidance and direction and take the necessary risks in order to take their organisations and people they lead from one level to the next”.
Keven Welman, MD of Fleishman Hillard, SA
“I kept a quote I heard early in my career, ‘A good leader gets people to do what he would like them to do, but he makes them want to do it.' The key to leadership is to share your vision, a vision – not a plan, show the team what you believe in and why they should join you on your journey. You need to inspire people – an inspired, motivated workforce can conquer almost any challenge”.
Elen Wiener, MD of Epic Communications
“My view of what makes a good leader has evolved as my own business has grown. When I was starting up, I thought being a good leader meant endeavouring to get the best out of myself. As the business and the team expanded however, I have come to realise that being a good leader means being able to get the best out of those around me. A good leader leads by making sure the right people are in place and that they have everything they need to succeed. This included structures, resources and motivation. Good leaders inspire. I believe that having the best people is everything. This means ensuring you attract the best talent, identifying current and future ‘stars' and ensuring that every effort is made to retain and grow them.”
Gail Curtis, Group CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi
“Nothing pleases me more than to coach and inspire my team to reach a place where we can all win and experience the highs and lows together. I believe people make up the organisation – culture is critical and sharing a purpose is tantamount to creating a hothouse for world-changing ideas. As a CEO you have to know what's going on in the world, to be in touch with business and with people.
Gone are the days of big bosses pontificating from the top of a heavy hierarchical structure. We must sit in the sandpit to find solutions. I'm ever mindful of obstacles, but my main focus is always on the desired end result.”
Mark Cutifani, CEO of AngloGold Ashanti
”Leadership is about people, because they are the business and more valuable than all the assets. It is also about articulating a vision, a direction and helping people understand what the vision is. Leaders have to build trust – that is what binds the organisation and its people together.
Leadership is far more than the numbers or the facts that you have to deal with on a day-to-day business – show your people that they're important and that you listen to them“.
Michael Davis, MD of ContinuitySA
“Be inspired and be inspirational – Be inspired by the goodness of people and great actions of those around you. Look to others to learn to improve you. Be inspirational by providing a good example for others to follow from. Be honest to admit to mistakes and learn from them.
Walk tall and only act in a way that you know would be inspirational to others. Be prepared to lead from the front, that is, do not ask anyone to do anything that you would not be prepared to do yourself. A good leader brings out the best in people and combines that collective effort - because everyone has different talents - to get the best out of an organisation. A good leader does not shy away from difficult decisions.” asa
Destiny magazine: April 2012