David Silverstein addresses local CEO’s at a breakfast meeting with Heidrick & Struggles
How tough is the life of a CEO these days?
Remarkably so, especially if you live in South Africa. “It’s a difficult environment worldwide for executive leaders, but in South Africa, things are even more acute. In many ways, local CEO’s are facing a perfect storm of circumstances – if you consider low economic growth, political volatility, high unemployment, power shortages, devaluing currency, and labour unrest, among others,”said Robyn Imray, Partner, Sub-Saharan Africa, of Heidrick & Struggles.
Heidrick & Struggles partnered with BMGI last week to host two breakfast meetings attended by a number of South African CEOs. Discussions about strategy were catalysed by BMGI founder and CEO David Silverstein, drawing on material from his book “Three Steps Ahead”, as well as “The CEO Report,” which was produced by Heidrick and Struggles and the Said Business School at Oxford University.
The CEO Report, which is based on over 150 interviews with CEOs of multinational companies, revealed that the demands placed on modern business leaders are changing significantly. The core question the Oxford study sought to answer was: how do senior executives develop the competence to lead in a changing world?
Many CEO’s said that gaps in their preparedness levels demand that they keep developing personally, particularly in an environment with heightened scrutiny from an array of stakeholders. This means that the success of a modern CEO depends more on growth in the role than preparation beforehand.
Another key variable is the speed of change. Sudden changes in the business environment can lead CEOs to focus on urgent, but relatively unimportant issues. They need to assess the speed, scope and significance (the so-called S3) of challenges they face. Furthermore, the report encourages leaders to embrace doubt and use it to their advantage, rather than fear it. Transformingt doubt into a decision tool helps CEOs find comfort in the discomfort of making decisions when the outcome is uncertain.
The findings of the Heidrick & Struggles’ report correspond with arguments put forward by Silverstein in Three Steps Ahead i.e. if we don’t think three steps ahead, we forfeit the opportunity to manage the future.’
Senior executives that attended the Heidrick & Struggles / BMGI breakfast with Silverstein found the discussions useful.
Donavyn Fourie, CEO of Franklin Electric Southern Africa, said, “I enjoyed the interaction and comments around the establishment of the foundational strategy on which all actions, plans and implementations will be based if a successful outcome is to be achieved.
David’s insights and methodology are simple but effective and highlight the potential for pitfalls if the original strategy construction is not accurate. I look forward to working through his book which I’m sure will give new perspectives to consider as I progress in developing our Sub-Saharan growth strategy.”
Johan Dekker, who leads UTI’s contract logistics business, was also positive about the meeting. “David engaged well with the C-level audience. He emphasized the need for fundamental strategy development and ongoing strategic thinking – not just done during the annual bosberaad. The attendees were stimulated to rethink their views on strategy and the strategy development process.”
“David shared his experience in a positive way,” reported Imray after the meetings. “The breakfast provided an opportunity for business leaders to not only gain insight from David’s international consulting perspective but to share experiences with other local business leaders”.