Leaders on Leadership: Dan Magliocco, president and CEO, Danone Canada
Why did you join the CPG industry?
Throughout my time at university (BBA in ’92, Schulich MBA in ’96), I was fascinated by the study of consumer behaviour and brand management. I was drawn by the opportunity to work on products consumed every day and the FMCG industry was a perfect place for me to leverage these skills to build my career. Over the past 30 years, I have had the opportunity to work across many companies, categories, brands and disciplines but, most importantly, I have built friendships along the way with some of the most talented people I know. To this day, I believe the FMCG industry offers one of the best opportunities to impact consumers’ lives each day. It’s why I found my way to Danone, drawn by its purposeful mission, iconic brands and focus on health and the planet.
What is the most significant industry challenge you’re dealing with today?
I could talk about the fragility of the supply chains tested throughout the pandemic, the inflationary pressures faced by consumers, or how we navigate the “new normal” in a hybrid work environment. Although significant, we are facing much more significant and pressing issues to reimagine the role of business in society in dealing with the most fundamental problems of food insecurity, the impact of climate change on food supply and the general wellbeing of the broader members of society. Businesses can no longer ignore the impacts of their growth agenda and must find ways to use their business as a force for good. That’s why I am so proud to work for Danone, which puts at the heart of its business strategy a dual economic and social impact while pushing towards our purposeful mission of “bringing health through food to as many people as possible.”
What leadership skills are most important today?
I think today, more than ever, people crave authenticity and trust. Without those two, the foundation for the rest is flawed. Having said that, given the challenges we face as an industry or society, there are a few leadership skills I value most, including being courageously authentic in sharing our beliefs and ambitions for change regardless of level, being forever curious about making connections and discovering new possibilities, being approachable and humble to nurture and drive a more inclusive culture, and finally, being passionately purposeful in everything we do to leave a lasting impact on business, people and society.
What experience taught you most as a leader?
Most of my career learnings came from stepping outside my comfort zone to lead transformational changes or navigate through a crisis. I can recall my time at Kraft, leading the Cadbury integration and subsequent split of Kraft Foods in Canada. That was a period of tremendous learning for me. It reinforced the importance of paying attention to culture and values, leading with an enterprise mindset, the value of linking strategy to structure and resource deployment and, most importantly, never to lose sight of the human impact our decisions have. These experiences served me well as I took the lead of Danone Canada, setting the foundational elements of a business transformation that touched so many facets of the business. It has been (and continues to be) a rewarding journey to see the organization transition from a single-category yogurt leader to a high-performing, multi-category food and beverage organization while being recognized by peers, consumers and customers through our efforts. The passion and people-centric nature of Danone, with its purposeful mission, make it even more rewarding.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
Great question… Besides telling myself to enjoy the journey, I think I would share that first, opinions matter, but experience trumps that, so get the facts. It helped me on many occasions go up against very senior folks with more experience. Second, trust your gut and step outside the usual path. Most of our learnings come from hard or uncomfortable changes in our careers. Third is the need to take empowerment at times. As a leader, we strive to empower our teams deeper into the organization. However, leaders need to be equally focused on “taking” empowerment from senior management to drive impact and expand their career scope. Another important lesson is that you must write your own script if you want to be the key part in the play. There are moments in your career when you must drive the vision and the role you want to play.
Lastly, I’d tell my younger self to leave my ego at the door and play the long game. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to take a step back or sideways to accelerate your career forward.
I have been in the industry for 30 years, and I have had some wonderful professional and personal mentors along the way to help guide me in work and life.
2019 – Present President and CEO, Danone Canada
2017 – 2019 Senior Vice President, Marketing, Strategy & Insights, Danone Canada
2012 – 2016 President, Mondelez Canada
2007 – 2012 Vice President, Strategy & Innovation, Kraft Foods Canada
2005 – 2007 Vice President, Beverages, Kraft Foods Canada
2001 – 2005 Category Director, Desserts & Beverages, Kraft Foods Canada
1997 – 2001 Director of Consumer Insights, Nabisco Canada
1992 – 1997 Brand Management, Alberto-Culver Canada