CEO Sean Joubert says success is doing what gets you out of bed each morning

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CEO Sean Joubert says success is doing what gets you out of bed each morning

Mar 1, 2024 | Strategy & Leadership

Sean Joubert, former CEO of Tourvest, is proof that leadership skills are largely transferable from one industry to another. ‘As long as the company you move to isn’t out of this world – like NASA!’ he jokes. ‘It took me less than a year to feel I knew enough about the industry to have a grip on it. A good leader is a fast learner – and should also be teachable.

‘It’s also crucial that your principles are aligned with that of the organisation. I wear my heart on my sleeve, which means I am transparent and honest, and call it like I see it. So, people know where they stand with me.’

Strong leadership is about effective communication, Sean says. It requires creating a clear vision, reinforcing it and constant communication about it. It is about giving direction to the organisation and getting employees to buy into your vision so that it can be executed. Actions have to be measurable so that employees can be held accountable. Sean believes these are fundamentals for any CEO, regardless of the industry they are in.

Solid foundation

To scale the heights of corporate leadership, it helps to have a solid foundation based on a qualification in a relevant discipline, such as accounting, law or engineering. According to Sean such degrees courses teach you how to solve problems and handle stress, as they typically come with difficult exams and much pressure.

However, to run an organisation requires a broad range of skills that go beyond what you learnt in university, Sean says. For one, you need to be able to leave your comfort zone and think outside the box. It also requires people skills, because an organisation is made up of many different kinds of individuals, and a good leader must learn to deal with all of them.

Being able to influence people is another important skill in a leader toolset, says Sean. Trust, credibility and integrity are therefore key, because people need to know that ‘you say what you mean and mean what you say’.

‘CEOs also do well when they are in a business whose specific needs are aligned to their strengths,’ Sean observes. ‘You can’t put a square peg in a round hole. For example, you can’t put a CEO who struggles to disappoint people in a company looking for a turnaround strategy. In such a position the person would be unable to restructure the company or retrench people because they’d hate to be the bearer of bad news.’

Humility

Sean surrounds himself with very capable colleagues because he believes leaders’ biggest problem is the humility to accept that they do not know it all. ‘Such leaders do not surround themselves with people who can augment, complement and challenge them.

‘I am not afraid to sit in a room with someone who is smarter than me. I understand that I don’t know everything and therefore I put an effort into building a diverse team with different competencies and knowledge. I help them grow and I coach them. ’

Sean gets annoyed by terms such as ‘new normal’ and ‘post-pandemic era’. He recalls having robust discussions with board members and shareholders about the future of the business after the pandemic. They would refer to images of people at a restaurant in Paris having a meal with glass panels around each diner as how they expected life would be like after COVID.

‘I argued strongly that such a scenario was not sustainable. Many of us in this industry believed the things we were witnessing during the pandemic were temporary. People were always going to go to restaurants, travel on planes, stay in hotels and jump off bridges. So COVID didn’t impact the lifestyles of our customer. However, what it did teach us is that our business model is very vulnerable.’

Definition of success

To make their business more resilient, Tourvest is now focused on diversifying operations to multiple geographies and in different segments. The group is also developing domestic tourism products, which proved to be a solid income earner during lockdowns.

Sean admits to being something of a socialist and being passionate about creating an equal society. He constantly worries about how those who did not have the privileged background he did can be uplifted. ‘People find this surprising because they expect a CEO to be obsessed with profits and shareholder value. I am more concerned about closing the gap between the rich and poor in South Africa.’

Sean defines success as being content with what you have achieved. ‘For some it is to have a job that lets them travel from country to country. Some want to become billionaires. And for others, like my daughter Jessica, it is to work with children in disadvantaged rural communities. To be successful is to do something that gets you out of bed in the morning.’

This article is a brief extract from the book THE CEO X FACTOR – Secrets for Success from South Africa’s Top Money Makers – available here https://www.takealot.com/the-ceo-x-factor/PLID92980382

 

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