What happens when an MBA student gets to be the boss?

Giving the best masters students in South Africa the opportunity to be the boss for a day by shadowing some of the country’s foremost CEOs, the Odgers Berndtson CEOx1Day programme is all about nurturing potential. Tarryn Carolus, an MBA Candidate at the Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, was selected to spend the day job shadowing Sneha Shah, Chief Executive Officer of Thomson Reuters.

Tarryn went through an intensive selection process to earn her place in the programme. Students from the top business campuses across the country compete for the coveted spots, going through multiple rounds, including online assessment, presentations and a one-on-one interview.

Tarryn Carolus

Tarryn said her experience was incredibly valuable. Her biggest takeaway was, while watching Sneha in action, that the secret to servant leadership lies in how a leader treats her employees. She was impressed by Sneha’s attentiveness and consideration toward her employees and by the authenticity of her relationship with each team member.

Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa chatted with Carolus to hear what she valued about the experience:

OBSA: What did you find was the most valuable part of the CEO for a day experience?

TC: I found watching Sneha within her leadership role, seamlessly switching between leading multiple different aspects of the business, incredibly valuable. The importance of the mannerism in her leadership style was illustrated in watching the way her team supports and rallies behind her. It indicated that, although expertise and knowledge about the business or industry are important, what really defines the trajectory of one’s effectiveness of being a leader is the way you treat your employees.  Sneha leads by example, listens to her team and respects all the employees (referencing all by the first name) irrespective of rank. In a world where growth, profit chasing and economic domination has taken centre stage, it was valuable to witness how an effective leader is able to drive a team by retaining stewardship leadership. 

OBSA: What was the most surprising part of the experience?

TC: I assumed CEOs delegated a lot of the work and I assumed that there was a disconnection between those in the trenches and those in the executive role.  Watching Sneha, it was evident that this was not the case.  She laughs a lot – and has a lot of fun with her staff. The relationships she has developed with her staff are authentic and deeply rooted in respect.

OBSA: What was your biggest outtake from the programme?

TC: South African leadership needs to purposefully listen more and talk less. In listening with purpose there is a level of mutual respect which facilitates deeper understanding into what the business requires and how to develop it further.

The CEOx1Day programme is a global initiative exclusive to Odgers Berndtson with over 700 CEOs and students participating worldwide. Please email info@odgersberndtson.co.za if you are interested in applying in 2018 or would like to take part as a CEO.