Find Out What Leadership Means To These South African Business Minds

Updated on 18 March 2016

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Find out what leadership means to these South African business minds


What makes the best leader? The question is one that many have obsessed over, and with many South African businesses facing tough economic times it has never been more relevant.

For a glimpse of an answer we turn to strategists, business leaders and entrepreneurs.

From Ian Fuhr, the entrepreneur behind local beauty franchise brand, Sorbet and Vusi Thembekwayo a young trailblazer and considered one of the world’s best speakers to Nicky Newton-King, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and entrepreneur, Ravi Naidoo.

Here is what these South Africans say makes a great leader.


Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, on success with impact

“It cannot be business as usual,” says Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, in a video for The Venture. While profit is good, Naidoo says, the business world has to find new models as to how to use business for good, not only for profit but for social impact.

Naidoo founded the Design Indaba, an annual design event and conference that brings together top designers, entrepreneurs, innovators and thought-leaders under one roof, in 1995 with the aim of improving the economy and people’s lives through creative design.

Naidoo, who also helped launch The Venture, a global entrepreneurship competition led by Chivas Regal, says profits are good because they ensure sustainability.
“But mostly, I think the key measure of our business would be what impact has it had on the meta issues – on society and on the economy,” he says.

Reason to watch: Learn why it is important to consider the greater social impact of your business and ensuring that your business has a positive influence on society.


Ian Fuhr, founder of Sorbet, on the subversive power of servant leadership

With career highlights that include introducing Kmart, the American chain of discount department stores, to South Africa at the age of 22, and founding an industrial theatre company, Ian Fuhr touts the the philosophy of servant leadership.

As unconventional an entrepreneur as one can get, the founder and CEO of cosmetic and beauty franchise Sorbet, preaches that business leaders should always be of service to their employees and employees should serve the customer. Getting this right, says Fuhr, is the first step to becoming successful.

“You don’t go into business to make money. You go into business to serve people and if you can then serve them well you will make lots and lots of money,” Fuhr says.

Reason to watch: Fuhr takes us on his personal entrepreneurial journey and how he got to believe in the subversive idea that in life and in business, service comes before self-interest.


Vusi Thembekwayo, business speaker, on the Black SheepIFrame

Vusi Thembekwayo is a global business speaker, self-made millionaire and the chief executive of MOTIV8 Advisory, chairman of Watermark Afrika Fund – a private equity house with assets in six African countries – and chairman of the venture capitalist start-up, My Growth Fund. In the video entitled ‘The Black Sheep’, he explores the key differentiator between the one percenters (those that are at the top of their fields) and the 99%.

“If you are not on top in the one percent of your game, you are the rest not the best,” he says.

The rest, or the white sheep are product people, says Thembekwayo, who don’t understand that your focus should be on the experience that your customer derives from the product, not the product itself.

How the one percenters also set themselves apart is when things get tough they keep going, he says. White sheep stop moving he says.

“When markets get tough, when we hit recessionary times, what do we do? We retrench and we slow our businesses down.”

Reason to watch: Find out how to distinguish yourself from the rest of the 99%.


Nicky Newton-King, CEO of the JSE, on the route to the topIFrame

Nicky Newton-King, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, says being given a lot of responsibility at a very young age was a big part of her route to the top.

The JSE is not only one of the top 20 largest stock exchanges in the world, it is led and chaired by women, its executive committee is 72% female. Newton-King’s board has also achieved gender parity with a 50-50 representation. Despite these achievements, only two women are listed on South Africa’s top 100 CEOs – Newton-King being one of them.

Being prepared to take the risk is what Newton-King says played a big role in her path to leadership.

“For me it has actually [been] being given huge responsibility at a young age and essentially having someone behind you ready to catch you if there’s a problem, ready to mentor you – but actually being prepared to put up your hand and say, ‘Ok, I’ll give it a shot’,” she says. “Scary when you’re young but actually [being] prepared to take the shot,”

Reason to watch: Find out how of one of the country’s top CEOs, Nicky Newton-King, achieved her success by demanding more from herself.

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