Fractional Leadership: The Key for Local Companies to Unlock Global Growth

Published on 9th April 2024

Over the past four years, most companies across the world have had to review their workforce strategies, as organisations sought to tap into the global talent pool as result of the rise in remote and hybrid, positioning themselves for growth but at the same time needing to keep costs in check.

For South African organisations, this shift has remained somewhat elusive, given the weakness of the rand resulting in a reduced ability to leverage expensive global talent and leadership teams.

One South African company has however landed on the key to accessing the best global talent without having to break the bank: Fractional Leadership.

“In the past there was a narrow mindset about what a successful workplace might look like. This model entailed a CEO surrounded by full-time executives who would all live in proximity to the office and spend 5 days of the week, 8am to 5pm, together. Within the space of only four years, that model is now considered to be a somewhat outdated idea,” says Debbie Goodman, bestselling business author and CEO at Jack Hammer Global, Africa’s largest executive search firm.

Goodman and her team at Jack Hammer developed their pioneering business model over the past five years – the success of which has seen them grow from a Cape Town-based boutique agency to a global executive search firm recently voted as one of the Top 5 EdTech headhunters by the Washington Post. Jack Hammer has the largest ground presence in all main markets in Africa, with head offices in Cape Town and Los Angeles.

In the process, they developed what Goodman believes to be the best and most affordable talent model for companies eyeing regional and global growth.

“The composition of future-focused business is undoubtedly moving towards a hybrid and fractional work model. We have our leadership teams situated in Los Angeles and Cape Town, supported by hybrid and fractional leaders made up of people all over the world,” she says.

“Once we stopped trying to break through the brick wall of traditional people models, we were able to drive global growth with zero external funding, as we took on board top fractional leaders who integrated with our culture.”

Not to be confused with consultants, fractional leaders are part-time executives who work within an organisation, integrating into the company’s leadership team and contributing to strategic decision-making.

Fractional leaders often handle specific functions, such as CMO, CFO, or CPO and oversee a particular area, for instance marketing and finance. Globally, organisations are starting to hire fractional leaders to access high-level expertise without the full-time cost.

Advaita Naidoo, Africa MD of Jack Hammer, says South African companies would do well to move away from the former gold standard of centralised command-and-control people models (albeit with some hybrid thrown in), if they want benefit from geographically dispersed (whether in SA or globally) top talent able to drive growth.

“Rethinking the ways to optimise your workforce and leadership teams is essential to stay competitive,” she says.

“Having an optimised workforce of full-time fractional people in different geographies, supplemented by AI augmentation is essentially the way of the future. This is happening all over the world. Driving global growth with an old-school mentality as it relates to people models is no longer viable. Growing into new markets requires local market insights, and landing the best people to provide those insights while being aligned with your company culture and values requires more than what a temporary, on-the-ground consultant can provide.”

Goodman says it has become clear that the right people, at the right cost model, with the right service agreement who are located in the right geography can no longer be contained under the same roof.

“The key to building a future-efficient, optimised talent model that combines the best of human expertise with cutting-edge technology at a cost that doesn’t kill company cashflow, requires a full-on embrace of new models which include fractional leadership.

“The days of a narrow geographical focus are fading, and the ability to drive global growth with a fully local team almost impossible. Your competitors will soon be tapping into talent pools across the globe, with this diversity fuelling innovation.

“Within this new paradigm, options abound. Companies can choose fractional experts, outsource critical roles, or tap into gig workers. The possibilities are endless. It’s about agility, adaptability, and staying ahead of the curve.”

By Debbie Goodman, CEO at Jack Hammer, and Advaita Naidoo, Jack Hammer’s Africa MD.

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