Advice for tomorrow’s leaders – top traits that CEOs look for in new talent

The Odgers Berndtson CEOx1Day programme looks to empower promising MBA students and shape them into future-fit leaders by pairing them with CEOs from leading South African organisations for a day.

“The programme is aimed at giving these students practical experience of what it means to lead an organisation in the modern world, while also allowing them to transfer their modern solution-based thinking to today’s leaders. Over the seven years the programme has been running, both today’s and tomorrow’s leaders have been able to grow,” explains Lauren van Halderen, joint MD of Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa.

The 2019 leg of the programme saw 12 CEOs and students taking the time to share their experiences and knowledge with each other.

“The role of a leader has never been more complex, and our program offers students a snapshot of a leadership environment that is constantly evolving. At Odgers Berndtson we believe that a good leader demonstrates growth potential, personal spirit, thinking dexterity and interpersonal savvy and hope that this program provides some insight into these traits,” adds Chania Stempowski, joint MD of Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa.

When asked what kind of advice they have for MBA students in the country, looking to successfully lead organisations in the future, the CEOs had some interesting and heartfelt advice to share on what kind of traits make a successful leader.


“Pull up your sleeves and learn as much as you can. Search for the big picture and context to make sense of the problems and challenges you encounter. Ask questions, read and spend time finding a mentor,” explained Thomas Schaefer, CEO of VWSA.

Strong Values

“Be true to yourself - your personal values have to be your values in business as well. Pay attention to detail,” suggests Tertius Carstens, CEO of Pioneer Foods.


Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft, said: “I think it is important for young leaders to find and be their authentic self – and to express that authentic voice. Secondly, I think it is very important for leaders, no matter their age or experience, to acknowledge that life is a continuous learning journey of self-discovery, and as such, is it not only important to self-reflect but also to continue to invest in your learning and growth.”


“Set yourselves bigger goals – think of yourself 10 years down the road and think about who you want to be and what you want to be proud of having helped create in South Africa. And stick around – we need you to grow South Africa!”, adds Jurie Schoeman, CEO of BSG.


Andries van Heerden, CEO of Afrimat, suggests, “Be careful not to focus solely on the socially and politically popular aspects of business. Make sure to equip yourself with good knowledge and understanding of the ‘hard stuff’ such as marketing, finances and operations management, in order to develop your entrepreneurial skills as well.”


“The adage that success or luck happens when opportunity meets preparation is worth bearing in the back of your mind. Keep doing the right things (such as working hard, adopting a growth/learning mindset, and investing in good relationships) and success will come,” adds Basani Maluleke, CEO of African Bank.

As a world leader in executive search, Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa is committed to continuing these opportunities. If you would like to apply to be part of the programme, please click here.