W&R Seta Leadership Chair: Gauteng
University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Dr Beate Stiehler-Mulder is the W&R Seta Leadership Chair: Gauteng and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Marketing Management at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), South Africa. She holds a PhD in Industrial Economics and Management from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 17 years’ experience in Marketing Commerce, Marketing and Retail Lecturing, Academic management, and consulting roles. As the current Wholesale & Retail Seta Chair: Gauteng, she aims to provide a platform that develops critical thinkers and problem-solvers in the Retail industry, conducts relevant retail and consumer research, and steers innovative education and work-based learning experiences in the spirit of advancing and professionalizing the wholesale and retail industry in South Africa. Her latest project includes a youth empowerment programme for 2023 to 2024.


CMO COUNCIL: What past experiences have best prepared you for your marketing leadership role?

STIEHLER-MULDER: I believe that leadership is a gradual process, you don’t wake up one morning or attend a course and “now you are a leader”. In my case, it has not been so much the experiences itself, it has rather been my fearless attitude, and my creative approach/ideas to solve problems that allowed me to engage in so many experiences, that have all contributed to me growing in the process. I’ve always said to myself, the more something scares me, the more I’m going to jump in, do it and “say YES!”.  These include things ranging from planning large events, starting an online webinar during Covid, jumping in when there were large tenders or contracts at work, taking the initiative and putting my hand up with creative ideas for projects. Not all things I’ve pursued in the past were necessarily equally fruitful, but there has never not been a learning from it.


CMO COUNCIL: How do you describe your leadership style?

STIEHLER-MULDER: I pondered quite a bit when I saw this question. I’m very much aware that there are two perspectives in life, your own and the outside world. Even though you may believe you are conveying an image of X or Y, it is not to say that you are actively perceived in the same fashion by others. I would therefore start by saying that from my subjective view, I believe that my leadership style is that of a “do-er”. This is as a result of, I suppose of my personality-type, which is known as a Task master. I thrive on getting things done, and I am a massive believer in actions that speak louder than words. I adore the thrill of figuring out the steps to get to the end goal, inspiring others to join in, and embracing collective inputs and thinking to solve a problem when there is a hurdle or crisis, and I move with speed.

I asked my team the same question and their feedback was that I am goal directed, I encourage collaboration and an open environment and value diverse perspectives, and promote ethical decision-making, inspire and spark innovative ideas, as well as encourage collaboration. Thank you – this was a great opportunity for me to learn more about myself!


CMO COUNCIL: What market shifts and trends are impacting customer and competitive dynamics in your industry/region?

STIEHLER-MULDER: There are always trends and shifts impacting our industry and region. It is because the world is wired to always advance and grow. To me, there are the obvious ones – technology, AI, health consciousness, higher emphasis on emotional intelligence, inclusiveness, etc. It’s more important to have an attitude that embraces change gradually as it happens (learn, read, experiment, try), so that you don’t feel overwhelmed when reality strikes, and can be prepared. Having a learning attitude is the new trend to cope with a world changing faster every year.


CMO COUNCIL: How much is customer experience, brand protection, purpose and corporate social responsibility part of your remit in the company?

STIEHLER-MULDER: To me it is everything. And these things stem from your personal values that you promote and bring into your business. Be genuine – understand how you want to help, feel why you want to do something – what is driving you, why it is important to you and why it makes you excited. Then take that out into the world, share it with your team, talk about it, create excitement and passion around it, get buy-in, and then put it in your brand, purpose and CSR. If the place it comes from is genuine and it gets instilled into your culture it will automatically translate into every touchpoint of both business and brand. 


CMO COUNCIL: What has been your biggest accomplishment in the last 12 months?

STIEHLER-MULDER: The precious relationships and networks I have built over time have given me the opportunities to accomplish great things. In the last 12 months it was when I was asked to do a TEDx Talk at my University; and the second was launching my Youth Employment Project where I employ 100 youngsters as field marketers in FMCG stores across our cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg, whilst they are enrolled on a certificate in Retail Business Management at the university.


CMO COUNCIL: Marketing is undergoing a progressive digital transformation. How is this fortifying and quantifying marketing value in your sector?

STIEHLER-MULDER: There really is a lot going on. There are a lot of tools, new shiny things. Ultimately, if researched, there is fantastic digital software and tools that can make your marketing crazy efficient, your targeting to the “t” and take your insights and ability and make a massive market impact. I always caution against getting distracted by all the new shiny tools. Always go back to the basics: Firstly, is this serving my business objective? Am I growing, enhancing and, also contributing to the profits of the business? Secondly, who is my market that I am talking to? Are these new tools and flashy software going to help reach my market more effectively, monitor and understand them better? Thirdly, will this compliment both my marketing objectives, and my digital objectives? Always stick to the plan, don’t get too side-tracked. Ask what is the purpose of the tool, and will it serve what I need, and will it really add value? 


CMO COUNCIL: What skills will be most needed by your organization/sector in the future and why?

STIEHLER-MULDER: Agility. If you remain stuck in a rut, without a willingness to learn and grow and adapt, you will become one of the job loss statistics in the near future.


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