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BUSINESS: South Africa’s Leading Managers Named for 2010


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Accenture calls it the “secret sauce”, Clicks Group says it’s a philosophy of “we’re here to serve”, while at Coca Cola “they make magic happen” – people, and the power of talented people infused by a vision, have emerged as one of today’s most important leadership priorities in the latest annual SA’s Leading Managers campaign.

SA’s Leading Managers is a campaign run annually by employer brand research and marketing organisation the CRF Institute, which promotes leadership excellence by researching and profiling successful leadership in the country.

The organisations that achieved top ten status as judged by an expert panel are, (ranked from one to ten): New Clicks Holdings, Accenture, Coca-Cola, Berco Express PTY Ltd, Sanofi-Aventis SA (Pty) Ltd, Weber Wenzel, The Platinum Group, Pfizer SA, Medihelp Medical Scheme and SAP.

According to Samantha Crous, General Manager of the CRF Institute, the best performing managers have a common focus on a strong vision and empowering people, as core elements of their success.

“These are leaders who have successfully filtered their vision through the company and with this have achieved many victories, including more engaged staff, employees who embrace change, loyalty and commitment from all stakeholders as well as higher levels of productivity and growth,” she explained.

Vikesh Ramsunder, Head of Logistics at top-rated Clicks, says he is particularly proud of how his team has responded to the challenge of turning the group’s distribution centres from loss-making cost centres into profitable entities. “The turnaround happened over the six months it took to improve the standard at the distribution centres, and two years later we’re achieving international best practice and benchmarks,” he said.

“There are a couple of things that helped to drive that change. One is the ability of a leader to take complex things, make them simple and add value. Therefore you’ll find that my strategies are very simple and that employees respond to them. Employees were party to the development of that strategy. I didn’t come in and impose it. We put the challenges on the table and said ‘how do we resolve these?’.”

Ramsunder and his team strive to create a supportive, if sometimes tough, working environment. “If you’re supportive and give the right direction, and if you improve the tools, it gives people an opportunity to be successful.” He is full of praise for his staff. “These guys can do anything. There’s such an amazing belief. Whatever challenge arises – it’s resolved. We have a philosophy that we’re here to serve.”

The Accenture leadership team, rated in second place in 2010, echoes these sentiments.

“We are a people-driven business, and as such we emphasise our employee value proposition, which is based on our values and culture, talent management and promoting diversity and inclusion,” said William Mzimba, Chief Executive of Accenture SA. “It is vitally important that we are able to attract and retain the best brains.” The company invests substantially in building its talent pipeline through local internship and graduate programmes – and employs at least 80% of the intake per year.”

Sandy Mohonathan, HR Director of Accenture SA, says that a shared vision ensures synergy in the way that the organisation’s objectives are approached.

“Leadership must inspire a sense of purpose and a shared vision ensures achievement against this purpose,” she said. Accenture have refreshed their human capital strategy in line with their strategic intent; a critical part of this strategy is leadership development.

“Our leadership strategy integrates behaviour-based interventions. For example, we have implemented a talent development forum to drive conversations about performance and potential – the outcome is a development plan that encourages great leadership that allows current leaders to excel and future leaders to be inspired.”

It’s a similar case this year for Coca Cola SA (CCSA), which includes attracting the best talent as part of its strategy. The vision for the company is to double the volume of business and triple value by 2020, and according to CCSA President William Egbe, success lies in the organisation’s two greatest assets: its brands, and its go-getting staff.

The organisation’s ability to react to the changing demands of the market in this way is affected by the capabilities of its people. With this in mind, CCSA has a strong emphasis on succession planning, which is supported by the organisation’s graduate programme. The HR division continues to transform itself so that it plays a strategic role.

Crous said that many other organisations who participated in the 2010 campaign are also geared towards internal leadership development programmes to ensure leadership succession within their companies.

Brian Daniel, CEO and Country Manager of the eighth-rated Pfizer SA, agrees that connecting this talent to a strong vision is critical.

“In as much as every company has a set of values, the character traits of the team members should naturally encompass these values. It should easily form part of how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis. The shared company vision becoming a reality is conditional on an alignment between company values, company culture and a real belief in what we do,” said Daniel.

Berco Express, ranked fourth in the publisher’s choice, introduced an interesting campaign to get their employees focused and committed to the vision. Their vision project involves each staff member giving that extra degree in everything that they do. CEO, Andy van der Velde, comments that today the project has a life of its own and it is being driven from all levels of management.

CRF have awarded the leaders and executive management teams profiled in the 2010 Leading Managers with a new leadership excellence indicator, a leadership quality mark that indicates these organisations’ commitment to, and outstanding performance in, profitable, responsible, accountable, transparent and inspirational leadership.


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