Lindiwe Rakharebe is undoubtedly a MICE industry legend. During her tenure as the Duban ICC’s dynamic CEO and leader, Lindiwe has propelled the venue into the spotlight with accolades such as Africa’s and South Africa’s best convention centre, making Durban a sought-out MICE destination on the global map – and ultimately advancing South Africa’s MICE industry and the local economy.
What motivates and inspires you to get out of bed every morning?
People, people, people – employees, suppliers, clients, heads of state, celebrities, royalty, sports luminaries – I am blessed to meet, engage, and learn every day from people of all walks of life. I also love developing people; I strive to do it in both my professional and personal capacity, and it is an ongoing passion of mine.
Please describe a typical day in your life as CEO of the Durban ICC.
Overall, a typical day is a whirlwind of activity, but it’s also very rewarding. Each day brings new challenges, opportunities, and experiences that contribute to our collective mission of delivering exceptional events and making a positive impact on our community and stakeholders. My role is to provide the overall strategic leadership to the organisation by establishing the direction and tone, whilst overseeing all internal management and operations.
My day usually begins early, as I like to start with some personal devotion time and set my intentions for the day ahead. One of the first items on my agenda is typically reviewing emails and staying abreast of the news to stay updated on any urgent matters or developments that require my attention. I then proceed to meet with key members of my leadership team to discuss strategic priorities, operational updates, and upcoming events.
Throughout the day, I engage in a series of meetings, ranging from client consultations and project briefings to internal team meetings and stakeholder engagements. These meetings allow me to collaborate closely with my team, address any challenges or obstacles, and ensure alignment with our organisational direction.
In between meetings, I make it a point to connect with our staff members at all levels of the organisation, whether it’s through informal catch-ups, a quick chat or even an encouraging hug. I believe in fostering a culture of open communication, empowerment, and continuous learning, and these interactions are invaluable in nurturing a positive work environment and bringing the best out of people. My day often ends with a function or event at the Centre, where I represent the Durban ICC and advocate for our interests in the broader community.
“I believe that leading with love and respect brings the best out of people.”
Which of your personality traits and abilities do you think are your biggest strengths in your role as CEO of the Durban ICC?
I believe that leading with love and respect brings the best out of people. Empathy is also very important in today’s workplace. I believe in principle-centred leadership, and I embrace five core values as a company. I do my best to live out these values every day and influence the corporate culture by the way I treat every member of the team.
Our core values are:
- Passion and commitment
- One team, one vision, united in diversity
Who are the colleagues or mentors or role models who played a significant role in your career, and what did you learn from them?
My late grandmother was a major influence in my life. She was a strong woman, disciplined, and compassionate and she inspired me to be the best I could be. I am also inspired by other great women leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama who are making an impact in their own unique ways.
What are some of your favourite career highlights so far?
We have hosted so many special events, that it is difficult to choose a single one. However, two events were especially memorable for different reasons; the International AIDS Conference was a highlight for me. Not only was this the largest event of its kind ever hosted on the African continent, but it was also an honour to host high-profile dignitaries sharing their support in fighting for this global cause. Another memorable event was the World Economic Forum on Africa; I remember how complimentary the organisers were about the Durban ICC and how our team went the extra mile to deliver such a wonderful event for them.
How do you handle unexpected challenges or crises that inevitably arise in the events industry, and what lessons have you learned from those experiences?
In this fast-paced industry, unexpected challenges and crises are inevitable. The key to effectively handling such situations lies in our ability to remain calm and be agile and proactive in our response. Communication is paramount, both internally with our team members and externally with our clients and stakeholders. By maintaining open lines of communication and fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration, we can swiftly address challenges as they arise and implement solutions to mitigate their impact. Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth and learning.
What do you love most about the SA events industry?
I love the industry’s vibrancy, diversity, and endless potential for innovation and creativity. It’s a dynamic landscape where ideas come to life, bringing people together from diverse backgrounds and cultures to connect, collaborate, and dialogue. The sense of community and camaraderie within the industry is truly inspiring, as professionals come together to create memorable experiences and drive positive change. I’m passionate about the role that the events industry plays in showcasing the richness and diversity of our country, contributing to economic growth, and fostering meaningful change which transcends boundaries.
“Every challenge presents an opportunity for growth and learning.”
What has the events industry done for you?
The events industry has been a transformative force in my life, both personally and professionally. It has provided me with opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute to the success of the Durban ICC and the industry globally. I have had the privilege of leading a dedicated team of professionals, collaborating with visionary board members, and making a tangible impact on the economic and social fabric of our region.
The events industry has not only enriched my career but also allowed me to give back to society through initiatives focused on women’s empowerment, education, and community development. It is a source of inspiration and fulfilment, driving me to continually strive for excellence and create positive change in everything I do.
Prior to her appointment as CEO of the Durban ICC in April 2015, Lindiwe Rakharebe had held positions at all four of South Africa’s major banking institutions where she excelled at strategic management and leading high-performance teams.
Her stellar accomplishments in corporate management have made her well-equipped to lead the Durban ICC to several successes since she joined the iconic convention centre; the venue has been voted ‘Africa’s Leading Meetings and Conference Centre’ by the World Travel Awards no fewer than 17 times and ‘Africa’s Best Convention Centre & South Africa’s Best Convention Centre’ for three consecutive years (from 2020 to 2022) by World MICE Awards, as well as ranked in the world’s Top 15 Convention Centres by the International Association of Congress Centres (AIPC).
The Durban ICC has also been applauded for its strong performance in achieving clean audits under Lindiwe’s leadership, and it has supported thousands of jobs while injecting billions into the regional and national economy.
Lindiwe’s successes are not only due to her strategic brilliance. Fondly referred to as Mam Lindiwe by her colleagues, she is also recognised across the industry as a woman who leads with her whole heart. She is passionate about growth and development of the region, as well as empowering those around her.