Empowerment encourages transformation and innovation, says Coca-Cola Beverages SA FD, Walter Leonhardt


As part of a broad feature about transformation in CFO Magazine, including an insightful guest article by Roy Clark, we asked the award-winning finance leader, Walter Leonhardt, to share his thoughts on the topic. "If you have an engaging, friendly and approachable style, you probably empower by default."

Transformation, diversity in the workplace, organisational change, empowerment, inclusion - these are all terms that have been bandied about very loosely since South Africa's democratic birth in 1994, says Clark. Businesses were given mandates, policies were drawn up and haphazardly implemented, and a fervent misconception about the true meaning and purpose of diversity, empowerment and transformation, as well as an absolute apathetic view to its importance, arose. How do CFOs view the subject?

"With regards to transformation and empowerment, of course there are many guidelines, codes and goals which we all have," says Walter. "However, I do think it's very much a question of style. If you have an engaging, friendly and approachable style, you probably empower by default. People all want to do the right thing. By ensuring people understand the context, when you give people freedom, they want to do the right thing. Thus, empowerment encourages transformation and innovation."

"That said, not everything we try always works. For example, we had some quite progressive ideas for recruiting young candidates into our organisation, which didn't work well. We subsequently adjusted and have appointed a number of great young people into our organisation, who bring in fresh (and sometimes pushy) alternatives on how we can do things."

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