Seed World

Being a Good Leader Means Knowing your Limitations

Dan Wright
CSTA Past-President

We all like to feel comfortable. We want to feel secure, like we understand our world. Each one of us often interprets facts to confirm our beliefs. Psychologists call this “confirmation bias”, and it can be very useful in certain situations. Feeling like we understand the world around us is essential to good mental health.

But confirmation bias can also be harmful, because it often causes us to reject information that, while it could actually help us to change for the better, challenges our preconceived notions of how things should be — which makes us nervous.

This scenario is at work right now in our industry with the Seed Synergy Collaboration Project. In designing a next-generation seed regulatory system for our country, we’re actively talking about merging our five dedicated seed organizations into one. Up until now, the Seed Synergy project has mostly talked about broad ideas focused on how to improve our sector. What was missing were specific proposals to do this.

Now that we’re talking about a major merger, we’re entering the realm of what I often call “uncomfortable detail”. When we begin to seriously think about the future, we realize that we can’t hold onto our past identity. We have to build a new identity.

I have to admit, the thought of the Canadian Seed Trade Association becoming part of a larger organization is bittersweet. For nearly 100 years, this association has played a key role in the Canadian seed industry. Serving as president for a year reminded me of just how wonderful our organization is and what a great identity we’ve built.

But times change. People mature. Technology advances. We cannot stay the same if we’re going to ensure a bright future for ourselves. As emotionally difficult as it might be to see the CSTA merge with several other groups, doing so would also be hugely exciting.

Being president taught me that to be a good leader, you have to be yourself. When you become president of a group as broad as CSTA, you realize you need to trust people and not always try to be the expert. You might sometimes think you have to be everything, but you don’t.

This was a great lesson to learn as I spoke to people about Seed Synergy during my year as president. Seed industry folks have a lot of pride. Pride can be good. But we can’t forget that trust is essential. We have to trust one another and know we’re on the right track to building a better industry.

I grew up in a diverse family. My parents operated a farm equipment dealership together and were equals in managing it. When you see that dynamic growing up, it becomes your norm. That was a big reason one of my goals as president was to raise the issue of diversity and encourage CSTA to become even more diverse. I’m happy to see our industry has more women involved than ever, and I’m happy to have done my small part to try and contribute to that evolution.

As I passed the president’s torch to SeCan’s Todd Hyra at our annual meeting in Montreal this past July, it was with a sense of both pride in our past and excitement about building a new future. I can’t wait to see what that future looks like.