Leadership and what it means to SA Water Chief Executive Roch Cheroux

Posted 2 August 2017

SA Water Chief Executive Roch CherouxIt’s been just over a year since Roch Cheroux took over the helm as Chief Executive at SA Water. Source SA was keen to learn about Roch’s leadership journey, what it means to him and for the organisation he leads. We asked Roch about his professional experience and how it led him to SA Water.  

‘I’ve always worked in the water industry. I started in the design and construction space and moved into operations and maintenance and then into general management positions. That included business development and contract negotiations in the private sector with municipalities and governments.’ 

After completing a Master’s degree and compulsory military service, Roch was recruited into a graduate program where he was offered a management position early in his career.

‘After only two months in the graduate program, the manager of my department left and the Chief Executive asked me if I was interested in the job. I said yes, which meant I started my career in management very early. After 6 or 7 years I became a general manager then 14 years later, Chief Executive of a company in Europe, then in Australia and then in South East Asia.’

Since Roch arrived at SA Water he has overseen a significant business realignment and development of a new strategy. We asked Roch how he motivates staff to adapt to change in this context.

‘It is most important to get everyone on board… The work we did involved a large number of people across the business and that was really a way to ensure that not only were we aligned but we also gave opportunities for everyone to contribute... This is the power of an organisation, not from managers and executives, the power comes from everyone in the organisation. We all share pieces of our experience, we create the story of this organisation together.’

There are many types of leaders in the water industry so we asked Roch about his leadership style.

‘It’s very much about clarity. If everything is very clear it makes it easier for everyone to understand. It’s also very much about people. I can bring something to a business but I know only part of the answer…the innovation, the good ideas, and the knowledge is not with me, it’s with the people.’ 

‘My role is about making sure that everyone is given the chance to contribute, once we are clear about the direction then it’s about working together and achieving something.’

Roch has worked in many different countries with diverse cultural backgrounds, in Europe, Australia and South-East Asia. We asked Roch about how he adjusts his leadership style to accommodate cultural differences. 

‘Each country has a different culture but within countries you find different cultures… each organisation will have its own culture and within an organisation, people will have different cultures.’

‘In terms of leadership its very much about listening to what’s going on and understanding what makes people thrive in their environment, adjusting through listening, understanding and respectfully challenging people, and then working toward one objective that’s best for the organisation. What’s very important to me is to be true to my own values.’ 

The idea of personal values and how they influence leadership is important and we wanted to understand who most influenced Roch in his career. 

‘I am constantly influenced by people simply because I think you never stop learning. There are a lot of people that I respect, who give me inspiration, but when I think about it at the next level, it all goes back to the values that my parents gave me.’

We were interested to know Roch’s view on what makes a good leader. 

‘I think everyone can be a leader, in different capacities and with different styles. It’s very much about listening to people, understanding the context, having a clear vision about what should be done. Leadership is not about people who have this charismatic personality that will stand on the table and talk to thousands of people. Leadership is about inspiring, it’s about winning the hearts and minds of people so you can achieve something.’