Growing up in Southern California, I remember hanging out with all the neighborhood kids, playing football in the street, tag, red light-green light and many more games. We called ourselves the King Street Gang, and I am still in regular touch with my gang.
Today, we might call a gathering of people a “tribe,” defined as a group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and even the produce industry and the PMA Board of Directors are all tribes. So too are your Instagram followers, family members, Facebook friends and co-workers.
The King Street Gang was limited to the distance our moms would let us pedal our Stingrays, but in his book “Tribes,” author Seth Godin notes how the Internet has eliminated previous barriers of geography, cost and time to forming and participating in tribes. Godin notes that you can’t have a tribe without a leader — and you can’t be a leader without a tribe.
While you might not recognize it, you too belong to a tribe — the produce business, which produces healthy products that people crave and that can make a difference in their lives. Being part of those who grow, distribute and bring produce to market is something we can believe in and something that matters. But during the past five years and during the next 10, we will see an entire generation of our great tribal leaders leave the industry.
People like Bruce Peterson, Dave Eldredge, Rick Antle, Bob DiPiazza, Jeff Garguilo, Ed Kershaw, Steve Kenfield, Steve Church, Miles Reiter, Andy D’Arrigo and many others too numerous to mention have led our tribe and the produce movement. Who’s going to lead our tribe into the future?
Leadership is about creating change you believe in. Change is hard, frightening, and can often feel like a threat instead of an opportunity. As Godin notes, the easiest thing to do is react, and that’s not leadership. The second easiest thing to do is respond, seeing what’s going on around you and then acting upon that information. The hard part is initiating ideas and action — and that’s what real leaders do. Real leaders see something others don’t or that others are ignoring, and they jump on it. Leaders cause the events that others have to react to.
As the produce industry steps into the future, we’re in need of leaders who do not fear change. Leaders who are willing to take initiative and guide the next generation of the produce industry. Will you be part of the new tribal leadership?
If you are willing to step up to the plate, now is the time. Change seldom fails because it’s too early. It usually fails because it’s too late. And while not everyone may be a leader of the greater produce tribe, everyone can be a leader in their own organization or the various tribes to which they belong. Get involved. Look for and act on opportunities. Don’t fear change; rather — as Gandhi said — “Be the change you want to see.”
Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.