Leaders in ag
By DARCY DOUGHERTY
ANKENY – Remember the Hy-Vee Triathlon? This annual event drew thousands of runners, bikers and swimmers, countless spectators and millions of dollars to Des Moines year after year. Such a high-profile event demanded big investments of people, time, promotion and other resources to succeed. There was just one little problem.
“One year when the winner crossed the finish line, the Hy-Vee team realized they’d forgotten to bring a 75-cent Sharpie marker to write the big check,” said Aaron Putze, director of communications and external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association. “Randy Edeker, the CEO of Hy-Vee, told me this story, which reminds us that paying attention to the little things is one of the secrets to success.”
Putze shares Edeker’s wisdom, along with success tips from 26 other Iowa leaders, in his new book, “You Are Destined for Greatness.” Some of the names are familiar to many people, including former Iowa Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry, current Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz, former National Football League player Chuck Long, former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. Other leaders aren’t quite household names, but their companies touch many Iowans’ lives daily, from Hy-Vee to Coca-Cola to Anderson-Erickson Dairy.
These leaders come from all walks of life, including agriculture, business, sports, education, government and more. These men and women have diverse backgrounds. Some are native Iowans, while others grew up far from the Midwest. All share two things, however – strong ties to Iowa, and an equally strong desire to help others reach their full potential.
“Early on in my conversations with Chuck Long, he said, ‘You share your successes, and you own your setbacks,'” Putze said. “That stuck with me, especially since it’s just the opposite of today’s ‘me-focused’ world. But Chuck’s philosophy is still a key to success.”
Farm taught many life lessons
Long is one of the key reasons why the 212-page “You Are Destined for Greatness” book came to be. He and Putze started working together a number of years ago through the Iowa Food and Family Project, which helps unite rural and urban communities by inviting people to explore how food is grown and meet the Iowa farmers who make it happen.
This connection sparked a collaboration that led to the 2017 book “Chuck Long: Destined for Greatness: The Story of Chuck Long and Resurgence of Iowa Hawkeyes Football.”
During the course of writing that book, Putze had the opportunity to meet many inspiring Iowa leaders-so many, in fact, that their wisdom filled a second book.
“I kept hearing about the importance of being part of a team and leading by example, and these stories spoke to me,” he said.
Many of these lessons resonated with Putze, because he had learned them growing up on his family’s grain and livestock farm near West Bend.
“That’s where I learned the value of hard work, caring enough to do things right and taking pride in your work,” said Putze, whose 26-year career in agriculture has included roles as the public relations director for the Iowa Farm Bureau and executive director of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers.
Texas native Hayden Fry also grew up on a farm, where a strong work ethic was part of the culture, and the importance of being ready for opportunities was ingrained in him from a young age.
“Whether you farm or play football, you don’t just show up when it’s time to plant or the game’s about to start,” Putze said. “You have to have a plan in place so you’re prepared when it’s go time.”
Listening is key to good leadership
While preparation is essential, listening is also vital to successful leadership. When Kirk Tyler, chairman/CEO of the Coca-Cola Atlantic Bottling Company, heard his team’s suggestion for a new pineapple-flavored pop seemed unusual. It was a hit, however, especially with the growing Hispanic market in central Iowa.
“Pineapple Fanta pop has become one of the company’s most popular flavors,” Putze said. “The lesson? Be open to ideas and suggestions from others.”
These concepts are resonating with readers.
“This is the best nonfiction book I’ve read this year,” said Joy Neal Kidney from West Des Moines, who shared her comments about “You Are Destined for Greatness” on Amazon.com. “Written subject by subject – from Strength in Humility to Authenticity Matters to Goals Bring Focus-the author has assembled worthy quotes from a couple of dozen leaders with ties to the state of Iowa. At the end of each chapter are reflections, questions to ask yourself, in order to aim toward greatness in your own circle of influence. Very satisfying and challenging.”
Taking action is essential to make these success strategies work.
“There are a lot of distractions in life,” Putze said. “You have time make time for things that are important.”
For Putze, this includes his wife, Crystal, and the couple’s three children, Garrett, Grant and Jaelyn. His book “You Are Destined for Greatness” is more than a uniquely Iowa perspective on leadership; it’s a treasure trove of life lessons he wants to pass on to his kids.
“It’s all about living more, giving more and achieving more,” he said.
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