Investec CEO Fani Titi on leadership

“Leadership is about bringing a team together, defining a common destiny and providing the space for people to bring their talents and allowing the space for those talents to develop,” Investec CEO Fani Titi told a recent GIBS audience.

Titi said the guiding principles of his career were to develop a set of skills that gave him a licence to be at the table, and to work harder than anyone else.

“In the early days of your career, it is very important to seek to reach a sense of certainty about what is important for you and decide on an area where you can make a contribution. You have to guard your confidence with everything you have.”

Leadership lessons

Growing up as one of 14 children in the rural Free State, Titi said his father believed in the power of possibility, while his mother was a disciplinarian. “This provided me with a sense of optimism and hope and helped me to understand the importance of a common destiny very early on in life.”

“Leadership is something that develops throughout your life. Understanding that your interests do not supersede those of others is a lesson I learnt very early on,” he added.

After completing his studies at University of California, Berkeley in the United States in the mid-1980s, Titi began his career as a mathematics teacher in South Africa. He went on to study business and worked at Rand Merchant Bank and the Development Bank of South Africa before becoming a founding member of the private investment group Kagiso Trust Investments Limited, now Kagiso Tiso Holdings.

“The most successful people prepare well and back themselves to execute on the plan they have in place. Sometimes, they don’t succeed. I always had the sense that you have to take some risk in order to develop, and doubt is something that should motivate and continue to fuel you.”

When asked about the prospects for the country, Titi said: “Our trajectory is not good. We are on a burning platform, and we have to do something, and with urgency.”

He encouraged people to be active and civic, and to register to vote and go to the polls in the 2024 elections. “The election next year is important, and 2029 will be critical, it will be the tipping point.”

Useful resources:
Gordon Institute of Business Science
Making an impact to significantly improve the competitive performance of individuals and organisation through business education to build our national competitiveness. GIBS is a leading business school in the heart of Sandton’s business hub, offering a wide range of executive and academic programmes.
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