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Visions of Leadership at Future Connect

In many ways, Food Marketing Institute’s 2011 Future Connect conference this week practiced what it preached.

In session after session, speakers extolled the virtues of leading with vision — setting lofty goals and keeping the team focused on achieving them.

That’s the way Future Connect worked with its attendees as well — by presenting ideals of leadership that those who came to the conference can aspire to, even though the complications of day-to-day management might make those ideals seem like pie in the sky.

The challenge for attendees will be to apply some of the pristine learnings from the conference in the messy craziness of the real world.

Certainly there were practical takeaways that could be applied:

• Gary Chartrand, retired CEO of Acosta Sales & Marketing, said he held fast to his vision of creating a national sales and marketing agency, despite many setbacks. He never settled for the “safe and easy” route. While few attendees will likely go on to build businesses the size of Acosta, perhaps they can learn from his unwavering self confidence, which he said was the foundation of his leadership.

• Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of both the Duke men’s basketball team and U.S. Men's Olympic basketball team, talked about how he gets to know each of the players on his teams as people, and seeks to “level the totem pole,” so that everyone feels their role is important. Many managers could certainly apply more of that type of thinking in their workplaces.

• Daniel Pink, author of a book called "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," spoke about how science has proven that money can be an ineffective incentive as a motivator for cognitive tasks. His talk should spark discussions about how to restructure some jobs and perhaps better reward workers in certain situations by encouraging more engagement. "We hire good people, they want to do good things — maybe the best idea is to get out of their way," he said.