When Odgers Berndtson started work in South Africa ten years ago, only about 30% of our executive searches took place on a global scale. In those early years of the 21st century, there just weren’t that many South African businesses with leadership from around the world.

Enter 2014, and the percentage of these global searches is closer to 65%. The transformation in the country’s leadership landscape has been astounding. The promising new generation of leaders within South Africa come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and are also moving here for dynamic opportunities. The result? A diverse leadership that bodes well for South African businesses.

In fact, the ongoing rise of women and black South Africans in leadership roles is part of a process of widening inclusivity that has grown to encompass the entire globe. Diversity is not only desirable for its own sake, but essential for ongoing success.

A diverse marketplace

Now that many South African businesses recognise diverse leadership as an important goal in and of itself, they are using it as a key competitive edge.

For instance, companies require effective insight on international business practices and a wide variety of different cultural contexts. You might source goods from a supplier overseas, or work every day with partners across the globe, supported by the ease of digital communication. Diverse leadership fosters that. It’s much easier to work with the people who best suit your needs and goals, whatever their backgrounds are and wherever they are in the world.

Collaborative interplay

When it comes to board of directors, the benefits of diversity go well beyond global insight. Applied appropriately, it enables the collaboration that leads to better decisions, and also innovation. The different perspectives of a diverse board can create a back-and-forth interplay that sets a great example for how companies can continuously improve, the same way that teams with different backgrounds and areas of expertise achieve solutions that no individual would find on their own.

With an executive team that can understand an increasingly global and increasingly diverse market, a company will be well-placed to compete and succeed in the years ahead.

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