CEOx1Day: Why it pays to listen and learn

18 Dec 2018

CEOx1Day: Why it pays to listen and learn

Raymond Ledwaba on the invaluable experiences gained by being a young CEO.

“I decided to take part in CEOx1Day to get an opportunity to walk in the shoes of an influential business leader in South Africa. I wanted to get a sense of what goes on in their daily lives.”

Raymond Ledwaba

So says Raymond Ledwaba, who in 2015 shadowed Phuti Mahanyele, then CEO of Shanduka Group. This is a South African investment holding company with interests in the resources, telecoms, food and beverage, property, financial services, energy and industrial sectors.

Less talk, more listening

Shanduka was founded by Cyril Ramaphosa, the current President of South Africa. “As you can imagine,” adds Ledwaba, “having an opportunity to spend a day with a CEO of Ms Mahanyele’s calibre is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“What I learnt observing Phuti in action was that she didn’t do much talking in her meetings. She was present and engaged in the discussions at hand. Most of her contribution was in the form of questions to understand the issues better. This is a very important attribute for a leader.

“I try to listen more and speak less in my everyday business experience, although I will admit that this is not easy when people look to you for solutions.”

Ledwaba is now CEO at ITThynk, a small software development and consulting company that started 12 years ago and now employs 35 staff.

Past, present and future

“We are a very young organisation. We employ young software engineers and consultants who bring a youthful energy to the company. So being a young CEO is not a big challenge for me from an age perspective, but my biggest challenge with running the business is being able to split my time into three zones.

“I need to spend time living in the future, ensuring that we are working on developing the business so that we create a strong pipeline of deals and products that will take the business to the next level.

“At the same time, I need to make sure I live in the present so that we deliver quality products and services to our clients, who expect nothing less than the best. Finally, I need to live in the past and ensure that we are learning from our mistakes and failures and grow from them. Three time zones in one day!”

Three critical skills

Ledwaba believes there are three crucial skills for running a small business.

  1. Critical thinking and always challenging the status quo.
  2. Knowing when to say ‘no’.
  3. Having the ability to take a step back, see the big picture and relax.

“As an entrepreneur, I constantly need to remind myself that things take time. I need to trust the process!”

Finally, Ledwaba leaves us with a question that will resonate with anyone looking to maximize their talent.

“I think a key leadership question for young people when it comes to talent and realising one’s potential in a disrupted digital age is to ask ourselves: what kind of world do we want to live in?”

This article is from the latest ‘Talent and Potential’ edition of the Odgers Berndtson magazine, OBSERVE.

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