John Penno

John Penno is Chief Executive of Synlait, an integrated dairy farming enterprise. Synlait produces more than 75 million litres of milk and manufacturing 30,000 tonnes of dairy product for export each year, with ambitious goals for New Zealand’s dairy industry and its contribution to economic growth.

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John had to successfully engage the hearts and minds of talented individuals to take them on the journey. That has included teaming together the country’s top dairy operators to build a $100-million milk powder processing plant, when all he could show them was an empty paddock.

He is a firm believer that effective businesses harness the collective ability and potential of individuals and says he doesn’t see himself as an individual leading a team, but rather an individual leading a group of leaders.

With 200 employees, Penno considers Synlait to be a “tiny” player in the dairy industry, but that doesn’t preclude ambitions to help lead the country further onto the world stage as an excellent producer of milk-based nutritional foods to meet growing world demand.

John is a sought-after speaker for conferences for industry and interest groups and freely avails himself to participate in these events.

It’s not about being the leader all of the time, but showing leadership when it is needed and being prepared to do the things you need to do to achieve what the group wants. I think the best leaders empower others to take the lead. ”