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What Future for Food Industry’s Next Leaders?

What Future for Food Industry’s Next Leaders?

The media is full of stories about failures of leadership in the business world, ranging from scandals to incompetence.

An opinion piece on last year outlined the top 15 reasons that leaders fail. It included lack of character, lack of vision, flawed strategy, poor management, toxic culture, no innovation, and the inability to attract and retain talent.

One can only hope that stories of failure don’t crush the enthusiasm of the next generation of leaders in the food industry and elsewhere.

How is the food industry doing in fostering leadership? That’s a timely question because the Food Marketing Institute’s Future Connect conference, a leadership-focused event, is under way this week in Orlando, Fla.

The food industry has made progress in nurturing talent, but some point to the need to do even better. In an SN Total Access Video that coincides with Future Connect, Trudy Bourgeois, CEO and founder of the Center for Workforce Excellence, cited one area in particular, that of diversity.


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“You see a lot of women and people of color in the pipeline, but you don’t see them in upper levels of management or leadership,” she said. “But if you think about demographic shifts and what that means in terms of shoppers, then it’s critical for organizations to reflect the consumer they serve from top to bottom.”

Trudy is a leadership advocate who points out shortcomings to help make things better. The third installment of Future Connect will help the cause of advancing leadership on many fronts.

Some companies have made considerable investments to send associates. Kroger Co., for example, is sending about 200, according to David Dillon, chairman and CEO, who is also chairman of this year’s Future Connect.

SN's 2013 FMI Future Connect coverage

Many of the attendees are young, up-and-coming associates who may never have attended a top industry forum. And judging from past versions of Future Connect, it’s a chance for these people to hear the industry’s story, including proactive efforts in areas such as sustainability, health and wellness, and food safety.

All of this reflects an understanding that leadership doesn’t just happen, but has to be built over time so individuals are prepared when their moment arrives.

So what’s the future for this industry’s leadership? Will it be a positive story?

I think it will, but here’s the really good news: We have a lot of control over the outcome.

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