For Doug Kling, leadership is about building your team, building positive strategy and encouraging employees to reach their goals.
“I really believe that if you coach people to be their best, they will deliver their best to the organization,” said Kling, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Lake Mary, Fla.-based Village Farms Inc., one of North America’s largest premium greenhouse growers.
“They will be more fulfilled, and you will develop a culture based on positive momentum rather than fear.”
Kling, 63, is proud of the fact that Village Farms grows 80% of the hydroponic tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers it sells from its 108 acres under glass in Delta, British Columbia, and 150 acres in Texas.
A key to being a successful leader, he said, is making your objectives transparent and maintaining integrity in what you say or do, which he calls the hardest part of the job.
“You walk the talk, that’s really what it’s about,” said Kling, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y.
He’s also a big believer in cross-functional teams, bringing together employees from all facets of the business to discuss a mutual goal.
Kling learned to lead by example by watching his father, the technical director for the CBS newscast hosted by the great Walter Cronkite.
Since joining Village Farms in 2008, he has come to love the challenge of producing safe, quality, good-tasting food.
“We’re really in the energy business,” he said, “providing the most basic form of energy critical to human existence.”
Kling’s previous jobs included senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies including Johanna Foods, the third largest dairy in the U.S., and Cadbury Schweppes.
“Doug brings a strong combination of intellect, enthusiasm and innovation to the industry that few can deliver,” said Will Steele, president and chief executive officer of Edinburg, Texas-based Frontera Produce Ltd., who has known Kling for six years and works with him on the Grower-Shipper Board of United Fresh.
“Sit down with him for a 10- minute conversation and I promise you will not only learn something, but you’ll be excited about it,” Steele said.