Ashton Hoorzuk is the archetypal serial entrepreneur; he has made millions and lost millions. He does not give up and he does not stop learning. He’s currently the CEO of CCI SA, a very fast-growing call centre business. He has energy and goodwill to burn and will continue to forge new paths forward that many would say could not be done. He is a very special leader.
In a sentence, what’s your definition of leadership?
Leaders, today, are all about being selfless. Their strong selfless characteristics enable them to look for and identify the areas where people can develop. They can assist their people to develop and grow.
Which historical leaders stand out for you and why?
Three leaders from history really stand out for me;
- Napoleon Bonaparte—his mantra of ‘never fight a war on two fronts’ has stayed with me forever. Whilst he was a destructive force, he also took the time to build things of beauty.
- Joseph Stalin—in 1944, Stalin and Leon Trotsky argued over what the ideal model communist state would look like. Stalin wanted to establish the perfect Communist state, whilst Trotsky proposed what we would, today, call the ‘franchise’ model. Both were proved to be wrong, as universal selflessness just doesn’t work. We need individuals who can think and behave differently, they become our leaders.
- Woodrow Wilson—after the great depression, he managed to keep a nation together by using his very personal ‘fireside chats’ delivered over radio—whilst in a wheelchair. This was the most brilliant engagement with a diverse nation.
Which contemporary leaders do you admire (from any walk of life, sports, politics, business, religion, youth et cetera)?
Steve Jobs for his relentless ability to stick to his vision and his dreams, no matter what interfered with it. He understood that in order to bring these dreams to reality, he needed great people around him—he found them, but still always challenged them to be better. He was the archetypal ‘comeback kid’, every failure he experienced, only fuelled him to try even harder.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so, how did they help you to develop and grow?
My father, because of what he stood for. I now carry the weight of responsibility to finish off the things he could not. He never really had a concrete agenda, but he was always a force for good. He has always been my undying inspiration.
In your view, what’s the more important driver for success—talent or ambition?
I’ve met so many talented people, but without a driven and internal desire to achieve, nothing much happens. I’m not particularly talented, but I’m a super driven ‘underdog’. This forces me to treat every day as if it’s my last day.
Has leadership become more difficult or complex in recent times? And if so, why?
Leadership is much more difficult today. People are constantly changing—they know so much more and, consequently, want so much more. We, as leaders, have to learn to adapt to the needs of a far more diverse workforce that rightly demands so much more from their leadership. It’s the leaders that need to adapt, not the people. This makes it far more complex, but so much more rewarding.
What advice would you give to those embarking on their leadership journey today?
You must be true to yourself, you cannot be anyone but you. Read, and read more. Remain hugely curious and never stop learning. When all else fails—Google.
What’s your reaction to Donald Trump’s recent victory in the US elections?
I was not surprised at all. In fact, I predicted it, and made some money on my prediction. In a constantly changing global environment, just maybe, this level of seismic political change will serve to shake us all up. This may not be all bad. We all need to now wake up and ‘lead’. As Pan-Africans, huge change is necessary, we must now figure out how we best capitalise upon these changing times There is a global issue around employment and opportunities for the younger generation—do you see any signs of any economic breakthroughs for them? What more could be done? Even in the depths of poverty, our youth are developing and changing for the better. We must actively harness what they can bring. They need positive role models, as they will be the custodians of all we leave behind. We have to better engage with them, giving them more than just hope.