5 leadership tips from top CFOs

We scour our archives to bring you compelling advice from leading executives

The role of the modern CFO is constantly evolving, beyond number-crunching and technical proficiency to fully fledged strategic partners of business and representing the company as a second CEO. Navigating the parlous state of economic and political affairs can be taxing and requires strong leadership, many finer points of which are developed with experience at the helm. We looked through our archive of CFO interviews to find leadership tips from leading executives who have achieved success at the corporate coalface.

Reigning CFO of the Year, Vodacom’s Till Streichert, made telling contributions early into his tenure with the telecoms giant by clarifying people’s roles and what expectations he had of them. 
 

“As an incoming leader, I was able to cut through the noise, being authentic, while being open to ideas and really listening to people. That unlocked an enormous amount of individual contributions, collective wisdom and combined power. We also hired a number of very skilled and smart people, some of them actuaries and data scientists, that helped us make finance a lot smarter.”
 

Liaan Kretzschmar (pictured), CFO/FD of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa, looks to a prominent leadership expert in defining an approach based on empowerment.

“John C Maxwell sums up my approach to leadership: leaders become great not because of their power but because of their ability to empower others. As a leader, I like to have open discussions and try to break down any barriers of hierarchy. Our team has open, robust and challenging conversations and in so doing, we come up with better answers than if problems were tackled by only one person. The variety of views allows us to devise the best solutions.”

Ayanda Mafuleka, CFO of the National Credit Regulator, believes strong leadership is embodied through taking a principled stand and empowering herself through education.

“Stand your ground and knowledge is power. Also, never compromise your values and principles. Once you appreciate a piece of legislation you are able to walk the talk. That’s very important because people don’t do what you say, they learn from how you do things.”

The difference between a good leader and a great one is empathy, says Sola David-Borha, African Regions boss at Standard Bank.

“Great leaders can understand how the other side is feeling or thinking. You can make better-quality decisions if you have a good understanding of what the other person might be feeling, and understand where they are coming from. Empathy is something you’ve got to develop. You’ve got to make an effort with it. It’s about controlling yourself and telling yourself that to make a better-quality decision, you need to have a different point of view.”