Top Five Tips for Becoming an Authentic Leader in the B2B Food Ingredient Industry

Key Takeaways from the 25th Annual ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference

Picture of 2018 ICAN Women's Leadership Conference logo

On Tuesday, our team had the pleasure of attending ICAN’s annual Women’s Leadership Conference. The powerful event, which has been held in Omaha for 25 years, brought together more than 2,700 men and women from across the United States to share tools and resources for becoming successful leaders in the workplace and in all aspects of life. This year’s theme was authenticity.

While the name implies that the event is geared toward women, many of the messages are applicable to all genders and industries, including the B2B food ingredient industry. Below, we compiled a list of the top five takeaways that we believe are relevant for leaders in the B2B food ingredient industry.

  1. Be real – The speakers at ICAN spun the theme of authenticity in many different ways, but the common message was that authentic leadership is what makes a person truly successful in business and in life. Successful B2B food ingredient companies have a stable mission, vision and set of core values. Their leaders understand themselves as well as their teams and business partners/buyers, and they have the ability to disclose that self-knowledge in an effective way that advances their business. Additionally, successful leaders in the B2B food ingredient industry have an open mind for new ideas and fresh perspectives that allow their companies to grow and prosper.
  2. Know yourself – In her opening keynote, Tasha Eurich, Ph.D., spoke about self-awareness as the meta-skill of the 21st century. To be a successful leader, she said it is important to understand how others perceive you and to actively seek feedback. Similarly, for food ingredient companies, it is important to understand how current and potential customers view your brand and your business. Actively seeking input from others can have a direct impact on your performance and success in the industry.
  3. Tell your story – The second keynote speaker, Kindra Hall (a self-acclaimed professional storyteller), explained how the most effective method for capturing attention and increasing revenue is great storytelling. Stories build bridges, and they are more memorable than stating simple facts. As a leader in the food ingredient industry, it is important to tell your company’s story. The key is to highlight the important elements of your brand that directly connect with your current and potential buyers.
  4. Build your team – Dave Logan, Ph.D., discussed tribal leadership and the importance of developing a strong team. Truly great leaders facilitate teams that don’t rely on the leader to function but still value leadership support. Successful leaders also recognize the individual strengths—and weaknesses—of each team member, and they build triads that bring individuals or groups together. This is especially important in the B2B food ingredient industry, as B2B relationships often involve a series of different buyers, sellers, influencers and decision makers. It is important to develop a strong relationship with each audience in order to help your food ingredient company succeed. Recognizing the individual strengths and weaknesses of various departments of your business, such as your R&D, sales and marketing, and customer service staff, can also help create a solid foundation for success. By offsetting weaknesses with specific strengths, you can better utilize team members and departments for greater efficiency.
  5. Encourage diversity – During the closing session, Brittany Packnett and Angela Hucles spoke about the importance of diversity. While Packnett focused on the importance of social change and empowering women in the workplace, Hucles emphasized the importance of recognizing different types of leaders, especially introverts. The common message between the two presentations was that differences—no matter the type—are essential for success. People from diverse backgrounds bring unique information, and their perspectives can often lead to new opportunities. Similarly, the changing demographic landscape of the United States is giving way to a wide variety of cuisine choices in the food and beverage industry. As a result, ethnic cuisine is expected to play a larger role in food and beverage applications over the next five years, as industry players continue to alter their products to accommodate new consumer preferences. By recognizing unique shifts in the B2C industry, leaders in the B2B food ingredient industry can better equip their customers with the tools and resources they need to meet ever-changing and diverse consumer demands, which in turn can help their companies succeed.

No matter what segment of the food ingredient industry your company specializes in, it is important to be real to yourself and to others. By understanding your company’s core values and mission, as well as the people and events that impact your business, you will be better equipped to lead your team to success.