Leadership insights from leading executives


Modern CFOs is being called upon to take a more prominent role in leading their organisations, in many instances, filling in for the CEO. As such, technical competency is no longer enough to succeed at the elite level and leadership qualities become more significant. We delved into our archives to bring you leadership advice from some top executives from a variety of industries.

Far from the authoritarian leader of old, Loveness Khunou, Dow Southern Africa CFO, believes that transparency and flexibility are key to getting the most out of her team.

"I am a fun leader; I like to have fun when I work. For me, it's not just all about work, it's about having good, collaborative discussions and engaging with each other. I also believe in walking the talk and leading by example. This is in the little things, like how you speak to people. Respect is number one for me, followed by integrity.

"I get the best out of my team by being open and encouraging them. If someone does something wrong, don't dwell on the mistake, rather get to the root cause of the problem. Also, protect your team - you as the leader are responsible for them and must ensure you get the best out of them. I think it's important to be flexible too, and to have a flexible mindset."

Highly regarded former CFO of SANParks, Rajesh Mahabeer (pictured), now Head of Public Sector Finance and Deal Origination at Garuda Capital, was nominated for the CFO Awards 2017. He says his leadership style is based on trust.

"You've got to earn people's trust and confidence. You are there to lead and grow and empower your staff, not to be their friend. They must understand that you are their leader. When a person has faltered, we engage and try to understand, do our best to resolve it, on the premise that the person will learn and grow from the experience and not make the mistake again."

Of the belief that people are any company's greatest asset, Inge Walters, founder of Eve Learning, stresses the importance of intuition, training and development and emotional intelligence.

"Your people are your greatest asset. Invest more in developing their emotional intelligence and leadership development," to see your business grow. The best way to get your team's buy in is to create an authentic environment.

"There is a thirst and hunger for belonging and connecting. People long for real conversations and honest connections with individuals. Capital allocation is not just theoretical - use your head, your heart and gut intelligence."

While the nature of the C-suite is changing by the day, Kenny Fihla, CEO of Standard Bank's Corporate and Investment Banking division, remains a believer in good, old-fashioned hard work and emphasizes that a strong work ethic is best built at the beginning of a career.

"Young leaders have surely got the time. When you are young, you probably have the best chance of establishing a work ethic that will be with you throughout your working career. You stand a better chance of developing that habit when you're young. There is no successful leader who is lazy and who doesn't stand out."

Fabian Naidoo, divisional CFO of NPO Right to Care, believes it is important to lead the way you would want to be led, and to create an environment conducive to growth. He says his flexible style of leadership - and he lists authoritative, participative, pace-setting and mentoring as some of these - depends on the situation and this has filtered down to his team.

"One of my team's strengths is its ability to accept new roles and responsibilities in an ever-changing and growing organisation. The team operates dynamically in ensuring that they are responsively meeting the targets per the annual financial workplan."

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