Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Dick Hubbard - an Authentic Leader

Authentic leadership is aligned with Greek philosophy - that of 'to thine own self be true' to quote Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, 78). This is a leadership style where leaders model the way to their followers, where they inspire a shared vision, where they challenge standards and processes; they are enablers, empowerers and feed the soul of those around them. Authentic leaders demonstrate consistent thoughts, emotions and behaviours - even when no one is watching. They are positive people with strong ethics and a well-defined social conscience (Jackson & Parry, 2008; Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Kouzes & Posner, 2007).

Authentic leadership is not merely sincerity, but where the very fabric of the person is aligned; all of an authentic leader's experiences, thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, beliefs, processes, actions and behaviours are consistent with each other (Avolio & Gardner, 2005).

Preparing learning materials for my students on authentic leadership got me to thinking about Kiwis who typify the style.

Dick Hubbard, the founder and governing director of Hubbard Foods Ltd is described as a ‘tall, somewhat gangly man with a charming smile’ . Son of a Kiwi returned serviceman and a Scottish war bride, Dick was a product of the post-war “get the country going again” paradigm. Dick “was unhappy working for companies [he believed] were dedicated only to increasing profit for shareholders” and in 1990 Hubbard Foods Ltd was launched. Between 1990 and 2000, turnover on breakfast cereal sales increased from $2m to $23m, rising to $30-40m by 2004. A touch of a social conscience appeared early.

Hubbard's reflects Dick’s own values of sustainable development, honestly, hard work and fair play, communicated to customers through the Clipboard Newsletter included in every cereal packet sold. Hubbard Foods has completed 'triple bottom-line' sustainability accounting since the mid-90s, opening the books to all employees, and offering employee training in reading company accounts. A spot of empowering and enabling. Hubbard's continues to operate in Mangere, despite lures of cheaper rent elsewhere, in order to stay close to their workforce. A long-term supporter of Outward Bound, in 1998, Dick flew all 120 of his then staff to Samoa at a cost of $150,000 (strong ethics, shared vision).

Dick would epitomise, for many New Zealanders, what corporate social responsibility (CSR) really means in practice. He is a past-chair of the Food Standards Committee and the NZ National Parks & Conservation Foundation, past-president of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, and a former director of Business Mentors in the Community. But it is his passion for sustainable business that has spurred much of his service work as a founder and active member of the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development (challenging standards and processes), ten years before sustainability became trendy (social conscience).

Considering selling Hubbard's internationally in 2008 caused Dick to decide that he did not want ownership to leave New Zealand (strong ethics). In 2009, Dick sold a 35% stake in the company to the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust. In 2010, furthering the company’s sustainability theme, Hubbard Foods installed NZ’s largest commercial array of solar photo voltaic panels, at 227.5 m2. This will generate 29,000kW per year, enough to power three and a half houses (strong ethics, shared vision).

Politically naive, in 2004 Dick Hubbard decided to put his sustainability ideas, co-operative leadership values and his desire for the creation of a positive future for Auckland where his political conscience was, and run for the Auckland mayoralty (strong ethics, and a pity that Auckland didn't share his vision!). While Dick focused on serving the city of Auckland, he installed a Chief Executive, Doug Paulin. Hubbard Foods started to slide in market share (from 12.3% to 9.4%6) and net worth (from an estimated $30-40m in 2004 to $14m in 2010), but he retained faith in Doug, who continues in the role today (positivity, strong ethics).

Dick thinks that leadership is “critically important” and that the leader is the “person who defines the cultural base of the company is the keeper of the soul of the company” . He says “it's hugely important to firstly know who you are and to stand for your principles” , and tries to “fix on who I am and what I stand for, what my values are. And then making sure that I can communicate that right through, that I'm a real and genuine person and hopefully one that people can look up to and respect”.

In my view, Dick Hubbard is a very self-actualised person, time after time after time throughout his business career putting his money where his mouth is, while the rest of the world slowly catches up with him.

Dick Hubbard is probably an authentic leader.


  • Avolio, Bruce J. & Gardner, William L. (June 2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 16, Issue 3, June 2005 (pp. 315-338)
  • Jackson, Brad & Parry, Ken (2001). The Hero Manager; Learning from New Zealand’s Top Executives. New Zealand: Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd (Chapter 5: Dick Hubbard. pp. 97-116)
  • Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (2002). In Jossey-Bass reader on educational leadership (book of edited readings), 2007. USA: Jossey-Bass Inc
  • Young, Sam (2011). Dick Hubbard - The Way to Start the Day. NZ: NMIT & AUT.


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