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Can introverts shine as leaders?

This article was published in the 3-March-2014 issue of Finweek Magazine

The stereotype that extroverts are more successful or make better leaders than introverts is everywhere. Looking at today’s leaders, you’ll often see this bias in action. We expect them to be charismatic, outgoing and articulate. Usually it is the outgoing sociable person who gets promoted over the introvert, or who plays the role of hero in the movie. With open plan offices and their emphasis on collaborative teamwork, many companies focus on this extroverted bias, making it harder for more introverted people to shine and to grow into leaders. But if you are an introvert, don’t lose hope! In this article, we challenge many of the misconceptions about introverts and share eye-opening examples of famous introverts. Continue reading

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Making the transition from founder to CEO

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 12-Sept-2013 issue

Do good founders make good CEOs? Often not. There are vast differences between leading a company as a founder and leading as its CEO. What does it take to close the gap and are founders cut out to be CEOs? Continue reading


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Why do CEOs get fired?

This article also appeared on Finweek on 20-Aug-2013

Often, we assume CEOs get fired because poor financial performance. But there is more to it than that. Sometimes they are their own worst adversaries. This article unpacks some of the underlying reasons why companies send CEOs packing. Continue reading


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Cannibalise your business before someone else does

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This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 21-March 2013 issue

Prozac, a breakthrough treatment for depression, is one of the biggest-selling, most profitable medications of all time. Since its launch in 1988, Prozac accounted for US$ 21bn in sales and 34% of Eli Lilly’s revenues in that time. In essence Lilly was the house that Prozac built. However, the US patent for Prozac was coming up for expiry in 2001. Executives at Lilly knew that this would trigger such a huge loss of revenue that 2001 was known throughout the company as “Year X”. So how did Eli Lilly prepare for Year X? In South Africa in 1997, Eli Lilly introduced Lilly Fluoxetine, its own generic version of Prozac. But this would eat into sales of Prozac. Why would Eli Lilly conceivably do such a thing?

Inevitably, markets are cannibalised. As business leaders, we have a choice: we can either cannibalise our own business lines, or we can enable existing or new competitors to cannibalise it for us. With pricey Prozac coming off patent, it was inevitable that other pharmaceutical companies would jump in to claim their share of the very lucrative antidepressant market. Rather than let competitors grab its Prozac market share with generics, Lilly chose to bring out its own generic. The thinking was that Prozac users could be converted to the cheaper, chemically similar Lilly Fluoxetine, rather than to the competitor antidepressants, and this would prevent some of the Prozac fallout. It was a smart strategy and helped Lilly stay in the antidepressant game.

So why should you cannibalise your own business? And what can happen if you don’t? Continue reading


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Do CEOs with MBAs perform better?

CEO MBA runningThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 17-Jan-2013 issue

In recent years MBA programmes have received a lot of criticism: teaching flawed financial thinking, ignoring business ethics, hiding from the real world of business and sheltering MBA students in academic theory. And so, as the argument goes, MBA business leaders are ruled by greed and short-term gain. Hence much of the blame for the global financial crisis fell on high-profile MBA alumni like Lehman Brothers’ Richard Fuld (Stern’s MBA of 1973), and Merrill Lynch’s John Thain (Harvard 1979). Let’s not forget Jeff Skilling of Enron, who had an MBA, while Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t even complete university.

With these criticisms in mind, do MBA-degreed CEOs perform better than their non-MBA peers? The effect of a CEO’s MBA (or lack of one) on the business’ performance is very much contested ground, with evidence to support both sides. Continue reading