we begin to authentically appreciate that only through our
reliance on others do we create real value.
Art Volkman, president of The Volkman Group LLC, a leading executive search firm in the healthy living and wellness market, screens dozens of candidates each year for senior leadership
positions. When conducting a search he says, “A key factor I look
for in making sure there is a good match for an organic compa-
“A“As new, young entrepreneurs join our employee
ranks do we have a systematic manner to impart
to them the values of authentic leadership…”
ny is passion and a sense of mission. The most successful candidates don’t see their work as a job, but as a calling. They can
have the functional expertise to do the job, but if they don’t possess the higher ideals of the sector’s mission, they’re usually not
When the Roll is Called in 2020
Our actions today will shape our legacy as we strive to build
sustainable organizations that create value. When the challenges
of today have been met will your business possess the leadership
to grow tomorrow?
Charting our path within this vision and mission is an exuberant challenge, and an opportunity to redefine the future of the
organic industry. We need to envision ourselves life size—as a
true economic engine in the creation of social and market capital. Your authentic leadership is a powerful energy source propelling the organic sector towards a bright future.
The organic sector’s success is primarily because people melded individual ambitions and beliefs into a social movement that
has become a steward of the collective vision. We are a community of visionary learners in which people continually expand their
capabilities to understand the complexity of human interaction
with the natural environment.
This learning paradigm helps us understand the systemic
forces that shape change and prevent us from losing our commitment to the ideals of a safe, equitable and secure food system.
Our core task as stewards is to hold the vision in focus and concurrently tell the truth about the present reality relative to that
vision. Our personal and collective challenge is to never forget
that the organic movement is a brilliant idea, in progress.
To maintain the level of innovation that we’re known for in
packaging, product development, fair trade practices and environmental stewardship we need to be at the cutting edge. To do this
we must ask tough questions that go beyond long-held management beliefs. Questions such as: Is this a process, belief or paradigm worth challenging? Is it limiting? Does it get in the way of
our adaptability? Is it universally valid?
Are there other examples? If so, what
can we learn from them?
When we empower our employees
to ask these kinds of questions about
our own business we create a decentralized organization where everyone
is responsible for all key operating
decisions, including pricing, ordering,
staffing and product development.
Whole Foods Market is a living
example of this leadership model
where the organization is focused on
the team instead of the store. Each
department team gets to vote on
whether or not new members are
accepted into that team and are also
held accountable for their department’s profitability. This peer selection process is used for all new
employees throughout the company,
even at headquarters. Team leaders, in
consultation with store managers and
employees are also encouraged to
stock those products they feel will
appeal to local customers.
This decentralized model of leadership creates workplace transparency
and places critical decision making in
the hands of those who will be most
directly impacted by the consequences
of those decisions. It encourages people to innovate and gives them leadership responsibility. This is a radical
departure from standard supermarket
practice where national buyers dictate
what each store will carry and manufacturers pay slotting fees to get their
products on the shelf.
We’ve Arrived, Now What?
The dramatic mainstream success
of the organic sector has created a situation where organic food consumption has outpaced production. Yet all
over the world we still find farmers
hesitant to make the switch.
According to the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture
Movements (IFOAM), “The worldwide
organic movement has now progressed beyond being a niche produc-