ATLANTA, Ga. – Thirty-two years ago, Bill Lovette, president and CEO of Greeley, Colo.-based Pilgrim’s, attended what is now called the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). Back then, he was an eager college student trying to get a job in the poultry industry. Last night, Lovette gave the keynote address to hundreds of college students attending USPOULTRY’s College Student Career Program during IPPE’s three-day tradeshow in Atlanta.
The USPOULTRY College Student Career Program, along with the International Student Career Program, gives companies an opportunity to interview top national and international students for industry-related jobs and internships in one location, during a three-day period. The program involves 400-500 students from national and international universities.
During his address, titled “Transitioning from Academics to Industry”, Lovette said, “I want to prove to you that you’ve chosen the right industry.” In order to do so, Lovette shared information about the meat industry — how much it has grown and where it’s headed — as well as facts about Pilgrim’s and how the company is evolving. He also imparted some knowledge to the college students that he’s gained from his many years in the industry— the “10 attributes of a leader.”
First, Lovette explained, leaders must have vision. “They must have the ability to see beyond the obvious and must understand the purpose, mission and strategy of the company they are leading,” he said.
The second attribute was what Lovette referred to as “servant hood Ethos”, which means understanding and living by the “it’s not about me” philosophy. He added that a good leader is authentic, trustworthy and a great listener.
Next, he explained that leaders must be “rhino skinned.” They must be persistent, persevere and be mentally tough. “Be comfortable being uncomfortable,” he said.
Having an insatiable appetite for learning is another important attribute. “My goal is to learn something new at my job every day,” he explained. “I never want to stop learning.”
Having a competitive-team mentality, the ability to convey magnetic energy and passion and living in the business battlefield are also crucial for leaders, Lovette said. “I do not enjoy sitting in an office behind a computer screen,” he explained. “I gotta be around chickens.”
The final three attributes he outlined for the students were: understanding the importance of communication, having a marathon mentality and conveying ownership and accountability.
In closing he said, “It’s important to grasp what’s internally relevant while also understanding what’s externally important. To be a good CEO, you have to seek new knowledge and know how to put that knowledge into use.”