In this study we draw on a series of in-depth interviews with chief executives of
some of South Africa’s most prominent businesses, to investigate how their
careers unfolded as they rose to the top of their organisations.
Twenty-seven CEOs of South Africa’s top companies were interviewed. Eleven
of these companies are listed among the top 50 South African companies.
We trace the evolution of leadership, from its embryonic beginnings in
childhood and adolescence, through the different stages of a developing career to
the crucial transformation of an operational mindset into a strategic one.
We examine the circumstances that led to these CEOs being appointed and
describe the difficulties of transitioning from a senior management role into that of
chief executive. We look at the competencies and experience necessary to be
effective as the leader of an organisation, as well as the role played by motivation
and self-belief. Finally, we identify the unique leadership challenges faced by chief
executives in South Africa and pass on their advice to the country’s next
generation of leaders.