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7 Questions on Leadership with Craig Botha

Name: Craig Botha

Title: Chief Executive Office

Organisation: Reignite

Craig Botha is a renowned Subject Matter Expert with over three decades of experience in the Oil, Gas, Chemical, Water, and Petrochemical industries. Specializing in asset integrity, management, and risk assessment, he has a proven track record of leading multidisciplinary teams and delivering high-quality projects. Currently, he serves as the CEO of Reignite (Pty) Ltd, where his entrepreneurial spirit and leadership skills are at the forefront.

Beyond his professional accolades, Craig is a dedicated family man, celebrating 31 years of marriage to Nicole. Together, they have four children, each excelling in their respective fields. Their daughter Adrienne works in media in the UK, bringing a global perspective to the family. Daughter Joelle is an aspiring scientist, currently completing her Biochemistry honours and set to begin her Master's Degree in 2024. Their son Chaise is a prodigious cricketer, showcasing both discipline and talent on the field. The youngest, Rory, is a gifted scholar with a creative soul, embodying the family's diverse range of talents and interests.

Craig's commitment to education extends beyond his professional life; he has trained and mentored over 3,000 students worldwide since 2005. His deep-rooted appreciation for diversity, equity, and inclusion is evident not just in his mentorship programs but also in his family values.

With a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Metallurgy) and hands-on experience, Craig brings practical insights into corrosion, coatings, and cathodic protection. His life reflects a harmonious blend of professional excellence, family commitment, and social responsibility.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Craig's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

One of the most challenging aspects of leadership for me has been striking a balance between my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and the technical demands of the industry. Being born in Africa has given me a deep-rooted appreciation for DEI. I've mentored individuals from marginalized communities and taught cathodic protection classes globally. However, implementing these values in a technical field that often prioritizes expertise and experience over diversity can be challenging.

My technical background in corrosion, coatings, and cathodic protection is extensive, and I've worked on projects worldwide. This global perspective has shown me that while diversity is a strength, it also brings complexities. Different cultural norms and professional expectations can sometimes clash, requiring a nuanced approach to leadership. It's a constant learning process to ensure that the team not only meets technical benchmarks but also embodies the values of DEI.

Another challenge lies in strategic planning and governance. As the CEO of Reignite (Pty) Ltd, I've had to navigate fiscal management while ensuring that the company aligns with industry standards and regulations. This often involves tough decisions that may not always be popular but are necessary for the organization's long-term sustainability.

My collaborative approach has been both a strength and a challenge. While I've successfully built strong relationships across various stakeholders, achieving consensus in a diverse group can be time-consuming and requires skillful negotiation.

Lastly, my active involvement with AMPP and commitment to education and mentorship have been rewarding but also demanding. Balancing these responsibilities while maintaining an enterprising spirit requires careful time management and prioritization.

In summary, the challenge lies in harmonizing the human element with technical excellence, strategic foresight, and operational pragmatism. It's a complex but rewarding endeavor that I continue to navigate in my leadership journey.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My journey into leadership began in 1995 when I decided to leave an intolerable work environment. Young and inexperienced, yet driven by a passion for engineering, I co-founded a consulting engineering company with my good friend Norman Otto. That initial step set the stage for a series of decisions that would shape my career and leadership style. I faced challenges, including significant financial losses on three occasions, but each setback provided invaluable lessons.

In 2009, I handed over the reins of my first company to a mentee, Martin Marokapula Lebenya, who has since surpassed even my own abilities in running a successful business. This experience deepened my commitment to mentorship and diversity, a value instilled in me from my African roots. From 2000 to 2009, I mentored Martin, equipping him with the skills to take over and successfully run the business. This practical commitment to leveling the playing field has been a cornerstone of my leadership philosophy.

After a brief stint with an oil major until 2011, I founded my second consulting engineering practice, Reignite (Pty) Ltd. Leveraging my deep technical expertise in corrosion, coatings, and cathodic protection, along with a global perspective gained from projects across continents, Reignite has grown to have a truly international footprint.

In summary, my leadership journey has been a blend of technical acumen, a commitment to diversity and mentorship, and an enterprising spirit. Each experience has been a stepping stone, shaping me into the leader I am today.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

My workdays are structured to balance professional responsibilities with personal well-being and family time. I've always been an early riser, usually awake by 4:30 am, waiting for my alarm to go off at 5 am. The morning starts with coffee and cereal, followed by a period of meditation or prayer. I often read "The Message" by Eugene Petersen, although this can be challenging during travel or disruptive times.

After catching up on global news and sports articles, I consider what content might be suitable to share on LinkedIn. By 6:30 am, I'm out the door to assist with the school run. I arrive at the office around 7 am and start by checking incoming emails, prioritizing global tasks over local ones. By 8:30 am, I'm fully engaged in tackling my top 10 tasks for the day, aiming to break for lunch around 12:30 pm. However, the timing of my lunch break can vary depending on work demands.

The afternoon, from 2 pm to 4:30 pm, is focused on closing out tasks in time zones ahead of mine. As the day winds down, I review work from time zones that follow mine. Exercise and family dinner typically occupy my time from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm. I unwind by watching some sort of crime drama from 7:30 pm to 9 pm. The day concludes with some reading, and I aim to be in bed between 9:30 pm and 10 pm.

This structured approach allows me to maintain a high level of productivity while also making time for personal and family commitments.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A recent leadership lesson that has resonated with me comes from ancient wisdom shared by King Solomon, as quoted in "The Message" by Eugene Petersen: "A bonanza at the beginning is no guarantee of blessing at the end." This serves as a poignant reminder to think generationally and in terms of decades rather than seeking immediate success.

This lesson was reinforced through a personal experience that spanned 25 years. In August 1998, as a young engineer, I arrived in Kuwait eager to find business opportunities in the oil and gas industry. Despite my enthusiasm and preparation, I left disappointed, with my tail between my legs. Fast forward to August 2023, I returned to Kuwait and finally met with the success that had eluded me years earlier.

The key takeaway for me is the importance of adopting a generational business mindset over a short-term financial or immediate success mindset. Success in leadership and business often requires a long-term perspective, patience, and the ability to adapt and learn from both failures and successes. This lesson has been invaluable in shaping my approach to leadership, reminding me that the path to lasting success is often a marathon, not a sprint.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has had a profound impact on my leadership is "Everybody Always" by New York Times bestseller Bob Goff. While "The Message" by Eugene Petersen laid the spiritual foundation for my leadership style, it was Goff's pointed questions like, "What is it that you don't think you can do? What do you think is too big for you? Or too scary, or too risky?" that truly challenged me. These questions exposed the fear, doubt, and limiting beliefs that were holding me back.

As a result, I sought professional psychological coaching to understand the pathology of my destructive thinking patterns and to develop tools to overcome them. This process has been transformative, enabling me to grow both personally and professionally.

Goff's ethos, as he sums up in the book, has become the cornerstone of my leadership philosophy: "You’ll be able to spot people who are becoming love because they want to build kingdoms, not castles. They fill their lives with people who don’t look like them or act like them or even believe the same things as them. They treat them with love and respect and are more eager to learn from them than presume they have something to teach."

This perspective has deeply influenced how I approach leadership, reinforcing my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and shaping my interactions with team members and stakeholders. It has taught me the value of building bridges rather than barriers, and it continually inspires me to lead with love, respect, and an open mind.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I could offer just one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be a multi-faceted gem, touching upon long-term vision, self-awareness, and inclusivity.

Think Generationally: Inspired by ancient wisdom and personal experiences, I'd emphasize the importance of adopting a long-term, generational mindset. Immediate success is gratifying but often fleeting. True leadership requires the patience and foresight to build something that lasts, something that will still be impactful decades down the line.

Confront Your Limiting Beliefs: Drawing from the transformative lessons I learned from Bob Goff's "Everybody Always," I'd advise young leaders to confront their fears, doubts, and limiting beliefs head-on. Don't shy away from seeking professional guidance to understand and overcome the mental barriers that could hold you back. Leadership is as much about personal growth as it is about guiding others.

Embrace Diversity and Inclusion: Finally, I'd stress the importance of building a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a leader, you have the power to create an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and respected. This not only enriches your team's perspective but also fosters innovation and growth.

In summary, my singular piece of advice would be to lead with a long-term vision, invest in your own personal growth, and create an inclusive environment. Each of these facets is crucial for becoming a well-rounded, effective leader.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One of the most meaningful stories from my leadership journey took place in the early days of my business. I was sharing office space with another company, and a young man came in to discuss success, business, and life goals. He asked me what I was building towards and if I thought I could achieve it in five years. I took a moment to ponder before responding that my vision was to build a business based on integrity, expertise, relationships, and sound commercial principles, and that I expected it to take 25 years or more to fully realize this vision.

The young man was visibly shocked and said he couldn't wait that long; he had a five-year plan. Now, 25 years later, I can say that my long-term vision has been the guiding philosophy for all my business dealings.

The pinnacle of this long-term approach came 15 years after launching my first business, when leadership was transitioned to Martin Lebenya. His business acumen, integrity, and values have not only met but far exceeded any expectations I had, affirming the wisdom of a multi-generational vision. This transition wasn't just a handover; it was a testament to the power of mentorship and the incredible outcomes that can arise when you invest in people who share your values and vision.

This story encapsulates the essence of my leadership philosophy: the importance of having a long-term, multi-generational vision. It also highlights the transformative power of mentorship and the impact it can have not just on the individual but on the longevity and success of a business. It's a lesson in patience, vision, and the rewards that come from sticking to your principles, even when they go against the grain of conventional wisdom.

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