Published: The Herald – 4 May 2015

WHEN a person looks at the success or failure of any business venture, there are a lot of key aspects that can be taken into consideration, but one of the most important is that of leadership.

In a competitive business environment, effective leadership is an essential requirement to achieve organisational goals.

The executive chairman of Izingwe Capital, Sipho Pityana, knows a thing or two about leadership. He is, among others, the non-executive chairman for Izingwe Holdings, Anglo Gold Ashanti and Onelogix Group Limited, as well as the non-executive vice-chairman of Aberdare Cables and Munich Reinsurance of Africa Limited.

Pityana says some of the most important characteristics a leader must have are re – silience and self-confidence.

“Entrepreneurship, and business in general, is a game of patience, where your ability to reach your goals will be tested to the utmost, and it takes resilience as a leader to endure those tests and be successful,” he said.

Arno van der Merwe also knows a thing or two about leadership. Born in the Western Cape, Van der Merwe is only the second South African to head up Mercedes-Benz South Africa.

He believes a critical part of leadership is to have a sense of purpose, as well as a people- centric approach.

“It is when a person realises that there is more to their work than just going through the motions, and takes responsibility, no matter what level they are at within an organisation, that they become leaders in their own right.”

Van der Merwe said it was then up to other leaders in the organisation to nurture and develop those individuals as this would have a positive impact on the business.

Van der Merwe, who is also vicepresident of manufacturing, is also responsible for the plant production operations, and is the strategic driver behind the continuous achievement of quality, efficiency and cost targets.

He said leaders should look at the challenges facing businesses in South Africa, such as load-shedding, labour relations and a weak economy, and see the challenges as oppor tunities.

“Any process or environment wherein there is adversity and challenges creates opportunity. Other businesses around you are competing for the same business, for the same contracts.

Your ability to handle those challenges, to deal with them and rise above them, is an absolute competitive advantage,” he said.

Pityana, who recently founded and chairs the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, advised business leaders not to lose focus of the company’s long-term vision by being caught up in a survival mentality.

“Survivalism is very bad for leadership. There will always be challenges that will get in your way, but you cannot let those challenges cause you to lose your vision.

“We have to acknowledge the challenges being faced as obstacles that stand in the way of our vision and then ask ourselves how we overcome these obstacles to achieve our vision,” he said.

Both Pityana and Van der Merwe will be guest speakers at the Nelson Mandela Bay Leadership Summit taking place on June 10.

For bookings and registration contact Charmaine Smith at Studio 55 on csmith@studio55events.co.za or (041) 365-7591. Limited seating is available.