n South African Journal of Labour Relations - The CEO's route to the top : the South African experience

Volume 38, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0379-8410
  • E-ISSN: 2520-3223



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.

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