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by Michael Sansolo

CHICAGO - The usual discussion of superstar CEOs was turned on its head at the Monday general session for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Future Leaders conference here, as three industry leaders preached the importance of humility, teamwork and patience.

I was lucky enough to moderate the panel titled “Insights from Industry Leaders,” designed to let conference attendees hear current industry leaders offer their hard-learned lessons in leadership and growth. The panel gave the lessons complete with personal stories and an unusual level of emotional honesty.

The panelists: Laura Fulton, senior VP operations for Hy-Vee’s North Region, Bob Mariano, the chairman and CEO of Roundy’s and Mariano’s stores, and Dave Skogen, chairman of Festival Foods, offered numerous lessons including:

• The importance of humility among leadership, which is essential in leading any team. The panelists shared stories of how others had influenced their thinking, including subordinates and emphasized the importance of listening as a leadership skill.

• Risk taking is essential both personally and professionally. Fulton talked about being pushed by an early mentor into applying for a job even though she lacked confidence - a move that kicked her career into high gear. Mariano talked of the challenge of leaving a company, Dominick’s, that he loved - a move that led to his future success. And Skogen talked of the financial and operational challenges of growing a small, family-owned company.

• All three emphasized the importance of building teams around them, especially adding people with complimentary skills.

• Skogen in particular emphasized the need for professional patience, urging the crowd to look past quick financial gain in order to build a strong foundation for leadership. In addition he talked about the importance of philanthropy and community ties.

• Plus, all three discussed mistakes they had made in their careers and explained the importance of learning from such mistakes to grow stronger and better at their jobs.

What was clear through the hour-long session was the passion all three have for the food industry and they urged the younger attendees in the Leadership conference to find the same passion. Fulton said that without passion and focus on every job through a career, no one could advance or find a sense of accomplishment.

The Future Leaders event runs through Wednesday attached to the main FMI Connect show.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.

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