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Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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My first CEO: Ian Cockerill

Surround yourself with high quality people; a decision is better than none; don’t follow the crowd; have excellent interpersonal skills; and never mislead your colleagues or the markets


Ian Cockerill


President and CEO of Gold Fields Limited

Length of time in position:

Four years

Previous jobs

1975 to 1978:

Cockerill started his mining career with Union Corporation at St Helena working both in the geological and mining departments.

1979 to 1990:

De Beers Namaqualand Division and Free State Geduld and

Saaiplaas mines.

1990 to 1992:

Senior mining engineer in the Minorco technical director’s office in London. Between 1992 and 1996 he managed the Elandsrand and Western Deep Levels West mines.

1996 to 1998:

Appointed technical director of the Anglo American Corporation Gold Division

1998 to 1999:

Executive officer – business development responsible for global growth via exploration and acquisition for AnlgoGold Limited. Added to his portfolio during 1999 was the responsibility of Executive Officer, Africa international operations.

1999 to July 2002:

Managing director Gold Fields Limited responsible for all global operations for Gold Fields and a member of the group corporate development executive.

Who was your first CEO or mentor?

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have a number of mentors, all of whom played a vital role in helping me get to where I am now. However, there are several trusted people on whom I continue to call for advice, from time to time.

What three things have they taught you?

Surround yourself with high quality people whose skill sets compliment your own, and be sure you make a decision. Any decision, albeit a bad one, is better than no decision. If a decision is wrong then you’ll know sooner rather than later that it was bad so you ultimately land up having made the correct decision, with 100% confidence. Be clear about what you want to achieve in life and set out long-term plans and goals to monitor progress. Finally, you only really make real money for your business by not necessarily following the crowd.

How have you applied this to how you work today?

I have attempted to ensure that Gold Fields employs the best people for the role, even if that means waiting to fill a recent vacancy.

Name one example when you have made a difference to your business?

No one example stands out as a CEO is expected to make a difference all the time. He is after all a “prime mover”. Probably, a good example would be the initiation of certain development programmes that lead to operational and financial improvements.

What makes a good CEO?

A good CEO has to have a sound appreciation of the business sector they operate in, excellent interpersonal skills, not necessarily an expert in their field but a good generalist. Excellent communication skills are also essential, for both internal and external consumption as well as a high level of personal integrity.

What three qualities should every CEO have?



Overall leadership qualities

What three things should a CEO never do?

Never publicly criticise your colleagues, nor knowingly mislead the markets, or fail to have a clearly defined strategy that has been effectively communicated to the troops.

In a few words, what advice would you have for an aspiring CEO?

As you move higher up the tree the branches get thinner, there are fewer of them and you catch the breeze much more easily. Don’t think being a CEO is all about the corner office and the big package. It is incredibly demanding of your time, health and relationships.

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