A day with South African's leading CEOs

SA’s top CEOs to offer on-the-job training to MBA students

A newly launched programme from executive search firm Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa has paired seven MBA students with leading CEOs for a day of intense work shadowing. The result? A common view has emerged from both students and CEOs that authentic leadership – characterised by developing true relationships, a deep sense of respect for people from all walks of life and a genuine commitment to learning from others – is the only way to help the modern organisation realise its full potential.

University of Cape Town MBA student Raymond Makgoana, who is employed full-time as a change enabler at the Barclays Africa Group, spent his day with Shanduka CEO Phuti Mahanyele. “I’ve learnt from this experience that you have to stay true to yourself – regardless of the position you are in. And to lead a successful organisation, your ability to connect with people across the board is of paramount importance.

“I know that one day soon when I start my own business, my goal will be to build and maintain meaningful, authentic relationships.”

Parmalat CEO Louise Cooke’s advice to all future leaders is to think very carefully about who they are and what makes them who they are. “Turn up to work every single day in an authentic way and make sure that you bring passion and energy into everything you do.”

She believes that leveraging upcoming talent is a critical part of every CEO’s role. The key is to connect with people in your organisation – talk to them, understand what they want and understand how they see the world.”

Cooke’s shadow was Seema Bhikha, a full-time MBA student at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. Bhikha found that that shadowing one of South Africa’s leading CEOs for a day gave her invaluable insight into what it takes to be a successful, yet personable CEO. “I learnt so much from Louise, especially about the qualities leaders need to succeed. Young leaders need to learn how to reflect and become self-aware. This is the only way they’ll be authentic leaders.”

Adcorp CEO, Richard Pike agrees with Cooke’s and says that the one-size-fits-all approach in leading an organisation is outdated.  “A good leader must have the ability to accommodate the various styles and requirements of the people that come through its organisation. This is the best way to get the best out of your people and natural leadership in the organisation.”

The JSE’s Nicky Newton-King, Pick n Pay’s Richard Brasher are two of the CEOs who participated in the programme. Other participating CEOs include Deutsche Bank's Peter Wharton-Hoodand Shameel Joosub from Vodacom.

Leon Ayo, managing director of Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa, says CEO For A Day aims to help executives gain insights into the next generation of leadership and how to leverage those skills.  “At the same time, we are helping the students gain access to a practical display of leadership, which will give them an idea of what it takes to get to an executive level.”

The programme is new to South Africa but has been running successfully internationally for seven years.