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Leaders Unlimited: Brian Khumalo

Brian Khumalo speaks about the evolution of leadership and the dawning of a new era

Juliet Pitman



Brian Khumalo

Brian Khumalo literally makes it his business to keep up to the minute with the changing face of leadership. Leaders Unlimited, the company in which he is one of two senior partners, is involved in executive search, leadership and human capital consulting.

Khumalo has been on the judging panel of the Transnet Boss of the Year Competition for the past two years and has a fascinating take on the evolution of leadership and what is required of an ideal leader today.

He starts by outlining the changes that have taken place in the world that have made it necessary for leaders to adopt different characteristics. During the height of the industrial era, bosses were revered for having specialised technical knowledge, but with a move to what Khumalo terms “the era of customer solutions”, people skills became a key component of good leadership.

“Leaders still needed to have good technical knowledge, but it wasn’t enough on its own – soft skills were also needed,” he explains. Leaders who could motivate staff to go the extra mile for customers enjoyed success.

“We have moved beyond that era now to a new information era where the playing fields have been levelled,” he continues. Two critical changes have taken place: people now have instant access to knowledge and the work environment is different.

A company is no longer the individual’s source of security, and Khumalo argues that instead, a respect for individuality and human rights is where people now place value. “In this information era, I would argue that what people are looking for is someone with emotional intelligence who respects their human rights, because it is from this that people now derive a sense of security.”

However, Khumalo is quick to point out that emotional intelligence is also not enough on its own. Some basic leadership qualities remain. Among these are the ability to streamline operations, to accomplish more with less, to create new and profitable ideas and to generate quality products and services by working together as a team.

“This means that if you want to succeed as a leader in today’s business environment, it is still essential that you possess leadership traits that bring out the best in the people around you,” he says.

“Having said this, there is also a saying that every executive should have on their minds at all times: ‘Executives are hired for their skills but fired for their behaviour and habits’.”

To illustrate the point, Khumalo highlights leaders who have failed in recent years, citing the examples of Enron and WorldCom. “It was not for want of technical knowledge or people skills that these leaders failed, but rather because of bad corporate governance and unethical business behaviour,” he explains.

“Leadership is undergoing a fascinating period of transition and people are demanding that leaders have this third dimension in addition to the first two elements.”

The demand for the third dimension has changed the playing field not only for individual leaders, but for companies as well. It is no longer enough for organisations to make money for shareholders and treat their employees well. They are now required to have a moral conscience and make meaningful corporate social investments.

As Khumalo points out: “Companies have always had the capacity to make a difference in a social context, but never before have they been expected and required to do so, or to report on their triple bottom line. This is because the world is calling for moral business behaviour and sustainability.”

Time will tell if South African business has caught up with the changing face of leadership. Khumalo hopes that the 2006 Transnet Boss of the Year Awards will attract nominations of leaders who possess all three of the ideal characteristics – excellent technical ability, good people skills and ethical behaviour. It’s an issue that will shape the future face of business in South Africa and the true test will be the level to which all stakeholders – bosses, politicians, employees and entrepreneurs –become mindful of their own ethics in business.

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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