A Strategic Leader Connects
with Lauren M. Scott
Lauren Scott is the Chief Strategy Officer of the International Fresh Produce Association. It’s the largest and most diverse trade association, serving the entire fresh produce and floral supply chain. Previously she has also worked in leadership at PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, and Diageo. She is deeply committed to ongoing education and has a passion for combatting food insecurities and promoting arts and culture. She brings those values with her every day to work, as she seeks to develop herself and her team as professionals and leaders.
Back to the Basics:
Even in childhood, Lauren’s heart was captivated by the arts and culture. From a young age, she began to take dance lessons and her childhood dream was to become a professional dancer. However, as she grew older, she recognized that she needed to find a path forward with more stability. And while she may not have become a dancer professionally, her journey into the career she has now has been shaped by the lessons in perseverance, grace, creativity, and authentic expression that dancing taught her so many years ago.
People First Leadership
Being truly people first in whatever role or field you’re in is so important. We are all connected to one another, and Lauren learned at her very first internship that when we look out for each other and do those little things to make life and work lighter for others, even if it’s not technically “our job,” it builds a connection that can transform lives and relationships and careers. Being “people first” may not be your core strength, however, and that’s okay! Maybe you’re more of a strategizer or developer or visionary. We all have unique strengths and if you are able to authentically be who you are, then where you’re supposed to be will naturally follow you. However, leaning into our authentic strengths doesn’t mean that you, as a leader, don’t have to grow and develop the areas you lack skills in!
Having The Courage To Grow
It takes a lot of courage to be a truly powerful leader, in any industry. You have to be willing to acknowledge the areas you need to grow in, learn to use your voice, and also grow in humility to listen to your team. The things that you focus on, you actually can start to be very good at, even if it’s not your towering strength. But you have to be willing to put in the work and you have to be willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of growing. Learning a new leadership skill is a little like learning a new dance, at first the steps feel clumsy and you’re afraid you have six left feet, but once you decide to continue practicing the new skill or step, over and over and over again, and you get help from instructors and students who are “getting it” faster than you, eventually you are able to perform that new step or combination with ease. As you might notice, it takes more than an individual effort to learn new skills. For Lauren, it took learning from others, getting a Master’s degree, and persisting in a job position she wasn’t naturally good at to develop her skills as a strategist, which got her to where she is today.
Building A High Performing Team
Leadership is always a team sport. This means you have to have a reliable team around you. Everyone has something they can contribute, whether that is feedback, ideas, strengths, or technical skills. As a leader, it’s your job to learn to create an environment where your team feels the psychological safety to be honest and speak with candor in all circumstances. Ultimately, this will foster creativity during good times, and lead to collaboration and morale during hard times. Lauren found this to be especially true during the pandemic. The open and honest communication she had built over the years allowed for various departments and team members to be honest and open about their struggles and challenges, and also problem-solve better together at the start of the pandemic and today.
The Best Piece of Advice For Growing Your Leadership
The biggest piece of advice Lauren has for anybody looking to advance in their career is to take the job you really don’t want. What?! This seems like counterproductive advice, but taking a job you are offered, even if you really don’t want it because you don’t think it aligns with your strengths and passions, will open the door to growth. You’re going to stretch and grow and develop, and it will give you perspectives and experiences you wouldn’t have had otherwise. It will open up doors and create new connections, and you’ll eventually move up into a new position immensely grateful you persevered and took a step outside of your comfort zone.