Where’s The Passion?
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 6, 2006
The issue of leadership is hot controversy. We started the subject off with a letter to the Pundit, which led to more and more again. Another letter writer weighs in today:
No, I don’t think you’ve missed it. I think there is a long-term trend in which the business is becoming less important to its participants. Part of it is societal.
Businessmen today are likely to have other focuses. I’m rushing back from South Africa to catch the first “Dad’s Club” event at my older son’s school. My wife works, so she can’t be quite the catcher for all problems domestic that my mother and grandmother were. Societal expectations have changed, and that 110% commitment level is much harder to find. It may be bad for the industry but it certainly puts leaders in touch with consumers who are struggling to juggle all the same things.
My grandfather was a member of something called the Scavenger’s Club. I don’t really know much about it but, apparently, in his day in the produce industry in New York, it was common to gather socially with other members of the trade down on the Washington Street Market. Today, there is no demand expressed for Hunts Point to start holding dinner dances. There is more of a divorce between social life and work life.
There also is a tendency to rely on professional staff as the industry became affluent enough to support such a thing. When Bob Carey was asked to be the entire staff of PMA, he was a graduate student at the University of Delaware. If much was going to be done, it was going to be done by volunteer leaders.
Today, between PMA, United and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the industry has well over 100 people on its payroll to take care of things.
There are fewer people who were born to the trade and, even more important, fewer people who are certain their children will wind up in the business. That reduces commitment levels.
There are a few of us left. Why do you think I am in South Africa? Because the industry needs to be represented, because the future depends on strengthening these relationships, because I can help.
I hope that people with passion will rise to the top and help us lead the industry, but I also hope that the professional staff of these organizations develops the kind of institutional support so that every leader doesn’t have to be a superstar.