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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Pundit’s Mailbag —
Wild Oats’ Harris Talks About Mentorship

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 17, 2006

One of the consistent themes we have dealt with here at the Pundit, almost from our inception, is leadership. It is the one constant that applies across all the issues that confront the industry. We’ve dealt with issues of industry leadership here, here and here, and today we have another letter on the subject:

Mr. Pundit,

Bravo!!! Your analysis of the state of leadership in the produce industry past, present, and future is right on! I am certain each successive generation looks at the one coming up and wonders if they will be able to carry the torch forward. Our next generation will be able to succeed as they have the passion, albeit with a different skill set born of the information age. We will need to mentor this new wave with the experience and wisdom we gained from the previous leaders who mentored us.

This is the renewing cycle you so aptly described that is the strength of the whole industry. We can continue to encourage our peers in companies large and small to pick up the torch and move forward, but we must never lose sight of our duty and responsibility to develop the next wave of leaders to insure the continued success of the industry.

Thanks for the courage and dedication you have displayed to write this daily column. It is a welcome part of the day that stimulates the mind and encourages us to think about and consider a different point of view.

Also I consider it an honor to be mentioned in your column with such distinguished leaders of the industry.

Keep the faith and please continue writing with the heart and insight you always show.

Thanks again,

— Don Harris
Vice President of Produce and Floral
Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

The Pundit appreciates Don’s very kind letter. We each contribute as we can, and we are proud that the Pundit has developed into a forum for industry leadership to debate, discuss and question the great issues that confront us collectively.

What is interesting about leadership is that it requires a certain amount of heart. A company can order its employee to serve on a board or to run an in-house training program, yet you can’t order someone to be a leader or a mentor, because the key thing that defines a leader or a mentor is the way others perceive you.

The industry is now filled with training programs, honors and much more to train and celebrate leadership. Yet, true leadership is bound to be just beyond the reach of any training programming.

After all, can you really train someone to be passionate? And can anyone really inspire others if they are not?

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