CEOx1Day links South Africa’s top CEOs with MBA students


The global initiative CEOx1Day, has once again attracted South Africa’s leading chief executives to be paired up with MBA students from the country’s top business schools where they will share a working day with one another through a unique and exclusive one-on-one experience.

The students gain first-hand experience in understanding not only the level of responsibility executives hold but also how they create value for their organisations; while the executives get insight into what exactly drives young people in South Africa and the types of leaders they one day hope to become. 

The 2017 participating CEOs include:

Anet Ahern: PSG Asset Management

Sneha Shah: Thomson Reuters

Cathy Smith: Cisco Systems

David Green: V&A Waterfront

Felix Ratheb: Sea Harvest

Lee Naik: Transunion

Stefan Mecha: VW

Wikus Lategan: Calgro M3

Mel Brooks: G4S

Ricardo Tadeu: AB InBev

SA’s future leaders clear on priorities

“Recent events in our country, both economically and politically, call into question the quality of leadership South Africa is currently experiencing,” says Leon Ayo, Odgers Berndtson Sub-Saharan Africa Chief Executive Officer.

“The aim of our programme is to put existing and future leaders into the same room to debate and discuss a number of issues, all while experiencing a typical day as an executive. It allows the students to understand what it takes to be a CEO and for the CEOs to gain better insights into what the next generation of leaders value most.”

Among some of the issues high on the agenda for SA’s future leaders is responsible capitalism and how this is going to shape their careers.

During the assessment process to select the students, this came through very strongly with some candidates expressing how they would create their own organisations if existing companies did not share their values for responsible capitalism.

Also very promising was the shift from the thinking that the government is solely responsible for bringing about real change.

Leaders must not look to the government to see what can be done for the country or society but to rather find ways of making a difference themselves.

“This reaffirms what many have said is a key motivation for the millennial generation,” says Ayo.

“At the same time, CEOs will be able to engage with a level of talent which they do not necessarily see or speak to in the initial recruitment process and may not see on a day-to-day basis. CEOs are able to then connect with these individuals and be reminded of their own youthful exuberance for social and corporate responsibility.”

Success stories

In the years since its inception, there have been a number of success stories illustrating the benefit and necessity for such programmes. During the 2016 programme, MBA student at the UCT Graduate School of Business, Heloise Janse van Rensburg spent her day with Clicks Group CEO David Kneale and was most impressed by his seemingly effortless leadership style. Heloise was recently appointed to the Clicks Group as a illustrating how the programme in itself assists with finding exceptional talent for South African companies.

“Overall the experience was profoundly impactful and I will never expect to have a day like that ever again. I was literally a fly on the wall, an outsider peeking into the successful operation of a star retail company in South Africa,” says  van Rensburg. 

In addition, G4S Regional President of Africa Mel Brooks, who took part in the programme last year, and is participating again this year, was shadowed by Ozayr Ballim, an MBA student at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. As a result of the programme, the head of one of Africa’s largest private security programme who oversees 120 000 employees in 29 countries continues to mentor Ozayr and develop this relationship.

“I was most impressed by the high-performance leadership values which Mr. Brooks demonstrated and, for me, this is what underpins his success in business,” says Mr Ballim. “I learned that adopting leadership values such as inclusivity; democratic consultation; and constructive conflict improves organisational performance. This is brought about by the fact that the people you lead are valued.”

Finally, one of the programme’s very first participants from 2014, Raymond Ledwaba spent his day with Shanduka Group CEO Phuti Mahanyele in 2015. Raymond joined Barclays Africa Group and is the co-founder and CEO of Diski Nine9, an NGO that uses soccer as a tool to educate and empower South African youth. He was also appointed as the head of the 2018 MBA World Summit Organising Committee where he will lead a team based in South Africa and Germany to organise this annual educational event scheduled to take place in Cape Town.

“The programme is giving some of South Africa’s top talent access to the country’s most inspiring leaders and helping to shape their own journey towards become great leaders themselves,” says Ayo.

To read more about the programme and follow the journey of both the CEOs and the students, log on


About Author

Thabo Mphahlele is the BizNis Africa Head of Sales and Marketing. Mphahlele was previously MultiChoice Production Support Analyst responsible for developing and monitoring applications. In addition, Mphahlele develops and automates batch scripts and is responsible for the daily infrastructure maintenance at MultiChoice. As a Production Support Analyst, he is responsible for incident analysis solving , developing and constructing business reports for SQL and Oracle and implement change controls for the business. Additional responsibility includes monitoring system performance via SOA, Kibaba (Elasticsearch), H.P BSM, HP Sitescope. Mphahlele is responsible for creating infrastructure performance reports through HP Ops Analytics, monitoring payments via Splunk and in-house built-in tool and disaster recovery simulation and testing. At Nashua Mobile, he was responsible for application development and enhancing the web sites At South West Gauteng College, he was the IT Technician and Network Administrator. During his tenure at Double Digit Media, he was he focused on application and web site development for new and existing clients Mphahlele contributes as a Content Manager for BizNis Africa.

Leave A Reply