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Runaway CEOs

11 October 2012, 07:22

Unlike the 1999 romantic comedy Runaway Bride in which Julia Roberts ran away before her weddings because of premarital stress, CEOs in South Africa are leaving their jobs to escape the stress and emotional intimidation in their jobs.

Running a public company in South Africa, which relies on unskilled and semi-skilled labor, capital equipment and raw materials, fuel or electricity to make money, like in mining and transport, is brutal self-sacrifice. Monetary reward cannot compensate for the emotional intimidation and stress.

One’s empathy and best wishes go to those executives who are choosing to exit while they still have a life ahead of them. A sabbatical or boot camp in a natural environment will close out the intimidation, wipe out the bad memories and restore health and aspiration for something new. There is nothing that soothes the soul and mind more than walking in nature with one’s senses open to the smells and roar of the ocean or the sounds and fragrances of the bush or mountains.

Chief executives have a hard job, irrespective of the industry they are in. Few people give them credit for the challenges they surmount or bestow them any empathy in times of hardship. They are the hubs that receive, process and channel the expectations and toxic resonance of board members, investors, managers, employees, trade unions, clients and the tax and regulating authorities, as well as the resonance of the news media, the public and the economy.

One can appreciate that some chief executives during times of stress go out and seek spiritual and emotional relief. Some find solace in meditating with spiritual masters. Others find temporary sanity in flying, hunting and racing and others in exploring the wild and the oceans. The majority dream of retiring early.

We need to cultivate a culture in South Africa that bestows respect and admiration on chief executives of private and public companies. A whole society can benefit from this. The positive resonance will change attitudes and the dynamics of the economy. Company wealth will then be more readily invested through corporate social investments in those individuals who are poor because they had missed the opportunity to learn and acquire the skills, self-reliance and aspiration needed for success.

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