Hunter Leader | Bob Hawes

Hunter Leader | Bob Hawes

Bob Hawes has extensive experience and knowledge in regional development with expertise in strategic and infrastructure planning, economic impact assessment, project feasibility, property and land use strategy.

Bob commenced with the Hunter Business Chamber as CEO in early 2017. As CEO, Bob is responsible for driving the chamber strategy and program of thought leadership, policy development, advocacy and executing delivery of events and member development programs.

While Bob was born and raised in Sydney, he moved to the Hunter in the 1980’s and is now a proud Novocastrian. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is the current Chair of the Salvation Army Hunter Red Shield Appeal.

  • What makes a good leader?

I think there’s a number of factors that contribute to that. Firstly, someone who’s got a vision, and one that they believe in, can follow and one that has clarity enough for those around them to be able to follow. Secondly, I think the team inclusion part of the leadership equation is very important, not only from the point of view of making sure that they’re respectful to the people around them, but they will respect of the people around them as well. And probably thirdly is around delivery and being able to walk the talk. Being part of that program of getting on with the job and not just being the bigger head who just sits back and says things. It’s a combination of those factors, I think.

  • What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?

In terms of my experience, I have been in the workforce for quite some time, but I think it is a combination of those experiences. It’s not one thing that sort of says, “here’s a bible on how to be a leader, or how to lead or how to get you out of things”. It’s what you pick up on your way along that journey. And I have a lot of respect for many people – including world leaders like Ghandi, Winston Churchill, and even Abe Lincoln – in the roads and paths that they’ve had; somewhat similar but somewhat different. But certainly, picking up things along the journey has been important for me.

And holding on to the things that I think I can do realistically. It’s not much use to me pretending to be someone that I’m not, or trying to do things that I see someone does very well that doesn’t fit my personality or character. You know, if you’re not born an aggressive person, well, it’s not like you’re going to go and act that way realistically or have people believe in it. And same thing with being someone that is charismatic; some people clearly aren’t charismatic. You have to find the curve that suits you and then build on that to make sure that you have a leadership style that’s effective.

  • What motivates and drives you?

Well, I’ve been very lucky in my working career, I’ve always enjoyed my work. I can probably count on single figures the number of days that I thought “I don’t want to go to work today”, “it’s just going to be hard for me”, “I have a cough”, or whatever.

Second thing, I like to keep busy. I’m not one to just sit down and do nothing. And I’ve been very lucky in being able to – across business, sport and other interests – always have something to be occupied with.

My staff doesn’t help in that regard; she’s someone who doesn’t sit still either. There’s always something to organise, always something going on, and I think that combines into the character and to that whole being during that part of your life. So that’s what gets me going and keeps me going. I don’t know what will happen when I stop, but when I do I’ll take a big breath and maybe I’ll answer that question differently in about five or ten years’ time.

  • What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?

Well, I’ll probably put that into two definitions, firstly a personal type approach and secondly the business one. The personal one is being able to relax, and I’m lucky that my relaxation can be done through a lot of things like going cycling, so I can do it effectively through that at the moment. That hasn’t always been the case, there’s other sports through the journey of my life, but I do get that relaxation and am able to switch off but also get exercise by doing that.

Work wise I think it’s effective to put gaps in your diary and keep them there and use them, particularly in my position as I get an enormous amount of emails. And I’m not Robinson Crusoe, I know that, we all have different ways of management, some people have the one touch system and some people have the thing, “well, I don’t even open ones that I don’t think I know who they are from”, and all that sort of thing. In my case I try to traipse them all and get through them all, so it’s effective to make sure I’ve got time in my diary to be able to do that each week.

  • Which local businessperson do you find inspiring?

Well, I think I’ve been lucky enough to work with a range of business people, and I’ve taken pieces of leadership and inspiration from a number of them. Paul Broad was my Chairman at HDC (Hunter Development Corporation) for a while; I really appreciated Paul’s direct approach and his steadfastness to achieve the objective.

Likewise, with David Evans for completely different reasons through Hunter Water. David was very thorough and made sure that everybody understood what the process was.

And then when it comes to delivering and getting on with the job in a very complex environment, I have a lot of respect for Carolyn McMillan, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Newcastle. In that environment where you’ve got to bring a lot of people along the journey, that was inspiring to me to see her get the job done and get results as a consequence.

Business Hunter

Business Hunter is the new name for the organisation formerly known as the Hunter Business Chamber. We are the largest regional peak business group in Australia, representing members across all business and industry sectors. Business Hunter is a not-for-profit member organisation dedicated to connecting people in business with what they need to succeed.

We have been the voice of business in the Hunter since 1886. Our members are part of a network of more than 2,500 businesses across the region. That network includes members of 20 aligned local chambers across 10 local government areas, stretching from the Mid North Coast to Lake Macquarie and inland to Scone. From main-street retailers to ASX 100 corporates, our member businesses power Australia's strongest regional economy. 

The name Business Hunter was adopted in February 2020 to better reflect the vibrant and diverse businesses the organisation represents. The new name also aligns with our affiliates Business NSW and Business Australia.

Business Hunter has been through a number of name changes; what has never changed is our commitment to helping our members do business better, to drive growth and prosperity in the Hunter region.

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