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Sivi  Pillay

  • Programme: Senior Executive Programme
  • Nationality: South African
  • Job Post-programme: Chief operating officer, Woolworths Financial Services (WFS)

Professional experience

Sivi began his career in general banking in 1990. In 1997, he became Regional Manager for the Kwa-Zulu Natal region at Consumer Credit, a micro-lender start-up. He joined WFS as COO in 2004, heading up their store card, credit card and personal loans portfolio of $700m. He completed the Senior Executive Programme in 2012.

​Rediscovering my strengths

The Senior Executive Programme gave me a month to focus on my personal development and learn, unlearn and re-learn from the best lecturers and senior executives in the world. It exposed me to an abundance of concepts in leadership that will last me a lifetime.

The programme has given me a lot more clarity about who I am and what I’m capable of as a global executive. Now I recognise my key strengths; I understand how to be an authentic leader, with the skills to deliver results. The programme has changed the way I approach leadership. I give my team more space to run the business and execute with clear accountability, while I focus on the broader enterprise transformation.

A global view

The great thing about the Senior Executive Programme is that it is truly global and caters for both developed and developing countries in terms of programme content. The diversity of people, skills, thinking, experience and nationality in the group was remarkable. The lecturers were outstanding in their fields; they had immense industry knowledge and experience both locally and globally.

Programme highlights

I really enjoyed the Leader as Performer session; it proved that most of us are actually actors on the business stage and reinforced how much personal work and grooming we need to do individually to perform at our optimum all day and every day.

The programme also prompted me to question my purpose in life – something I’ve not had the opportunity to analyse thoroughly; this was incredibly valuable to me as a person.

Making an impact

I’m definitely more effective as a leader now than before I attended the Senior Executive Programme. I’m leading much more than I’m managing. I’m also lifting my head and challenging first principles in our business more often. I’m more vocal with my views and now wear much more of an enterprise hat when making fundamental decisions for our business.

In terms of what I’ve achieved since the programme, I’m driving enterprise change across all levels in our business; started getting more involved with our next level of future talent, and I’m driving innovation and challenging the business to play more than one game at a time.

A career reset

Prior to attending the programme, I had been very internally focused and I knew I needed some fresh global thinking and a different perspective. I really wanted to benchmark myself globally as an executive.This is not something you can do sitting at your own desk. I wanted the opportunity to interact and learn from global leaders and executives from multinational companies. I wanted a reset in my career – I wanted to move from the ordinary to the extraordinary! The Senior Executive Programme did all this and more.