‘The best way to motivate people is to empower them’
CEO of De Beers Group
Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers Group, began his career in the legal sector in South Africa before joining the world’s leading diamond producer.
The 51-year-old, who now lives in London, studied maths and then law at the University of Cape Town before earning a master’s in law at the University of Cambridge. Before joining De Beers, he was a partner at Webber Wentzel, Africa’s largest law firm, specializing in commercial matters.
“I spent 15 years of my life as a partner in a corporate law firm at Johannesburg, South Africa — De Beers was always a client of mine.”
Cleaver then joined De Beers as general counsel in 2005, becoming commercial director in 2007. In 2010 he was appointed co-acting CEO of De Beers, becoming an executive head responsible for strategy, business development, corporate affairs and technologies in 2011. He was named CEO of De Beers Group on July 1, 2016.
“De Beers is such a wonderful organization; it gives people the chance to do things. I was given the chance of various commercial roles, which also led me to my current job.”
It has been a long career progression, but it has been in a company that is prepared to invest in people and let them grow into bigger roles, Cleaver says.
The greatest asset of the company remains its tremendous products, he says, as the glamorous diamonds are what people strive for. But for De Beers (or any business) to succeed, it must invest in the right people.
“De Beers is very good at picking people, growing people and promoting people. For me, the critical piece is to have the right people here with me to do the job, as ultimately, that is going to differentiate you from your competitors.”
Cleaver says the best way to motivate people is to empower them. This means making sure that employees have goals that they understand and agree with, then empowering them to achieve success rather than trying to do it yourself.
“To me, I think that’s the single most important way of getting people to deliver.”
As part of its recruitment strategy, academic excellence is not the only trait De Beers is looking for, Cleaver explains. It is also about what recruits can bring to the business: if they are willing to take initiative, have teamwork skills, an innovative personality and how much they can grow.
The diamond industry presents an enticing career option for youngsters, he says, using De Beers as an example. The firm offers opportunities including exploration, mining, rough sells, branding, retail and communications. On the consumer side, it covers the whole value chain, which is what makes it an exciting business.
“I will definitely encourage people to join the business.”
Advice Cleaver gives for aspiring youth is to set goals and to believe you can deliver them. Having a “can do” attitude will hold you in good stead, and you will be amazed of what you can achieve, he says.
Bruce Cleaver, De Beers, global industry leader of the tradition-bound diamond business, has moved to adapt to the changing landscape of a consumerbased economy. Its group CEO says the firm has pinned high hopes on the purchasing power of Chinese consumers, especially the “millennial” generation and economically empowered women buyers.