The winner of Friday's Westpac Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards' Linden Estate Leadership Award "is a young leader doing amazing things", says chamber CEO Wayne Walford.
"When you talk to some of the people that he works with, he empowers them, gives them the right sort of environment to grow and make decisions and get on with the job," he said.
The winner, telecommunications company NOW's CEO Hamish White, was "a very good model for leadership".
Mr Walford said through extensive interviews with staff, judges found out if business leaders "are not just a man out taking a walk - they do have people following them".
"That came very clearly from talking to his staff - they revere him and think it is fantastic being part of what he is doing and the growth they are seeing."
The former Telecom marketing manager set up successful marketing agency Tank in 2006 and was introduced to NOW by Havelock North businessman Rod Drury and joined its board.
Getting the right people is a preoccupation - every business is only as good as its people.
Mr White structured a takeover and became CEO, directly challenging Telecom. NOW has grown 40 per cent for each of the last two financial years. He has held leadership positions for almost 20 years and, while he had learned the theory of management from his degree in commerce and the Icehouse owner/manager programme, said leadership was more intuition than theory.
It required vision, clear expectations and "making sure people are fully-empowered people to do their jobs".
"It is also about understanding what people want for themselves - finding that synergy between the organisation's and the individual's desires. I'm all into people realising their full potential. We had a guy here who worked for us for a couple of years - came as an EIT intern after a computer science degree - and he has just got a job working for Weta in Wellington starting this week. For me, while it is disappointing to lose people like that, there is a sense of accomplishment in part. We were the springboard that enabled him to fulfil his dreams and ambitions. So it is a really good outcome," Mr White said.
As growth continues throughout the mid-to-lower North Island, NOW is almost hiring an average of one person a week.
"It's all about the right people, to be quite honest - we make sure here is a good strong cultural fit.
"Getting the right people is a preoccupation - every business is only as good as its people."