Scholarship hones leadership skills

Midge Munro with the trophy she won while taking part in the 2016 Produce Marketing Association Emerging Leaders Programme.

Leadership, says Midge Munro, is not about the individual. “It is about taking other people with you – about helping everyone achieve.”

The newly-appointed group communications manager for Darling Group has just graduated from the 2016 Produce Marketing Association Emerging Leaders Programme, in Arizona, USA, and says the experience helped clarify what leadership means for her.

“Leadership also means taking responsibility when things go wrong,” says Midge.

Midge was the only New Zealander among the 36 PMA scholars that attended the intensive programme at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at the University of Arizona.

“There was also a woman from Australia and two people from Canada, but the rest of those attending were from America. It was an amazing experience, which included a business simulation project which the team I was part of won,” says Midge, who has the trophy to prove it.

Handle challenges

The aim of the programme is to prepare potential leaders to embrace increasing levels of responsibility and be able to handle challenges and opportunities inherent in future leadership roles.

The bursary awarded to Midge to take part in the programme in March was supported by PMA Australia-New Zealand Limited and Nuffield Australia for a young emerging leader from the horticultural industry. The Avocado Industry Council and HortNZ also contributed to Midge attending the course.

It came at a good time in her career. “I was at a point of wanting to develop my skills further; this programme helped clarify my beliefs, what skills I have and how to incorporate leadership principles into my work,” says Midge, who at the time was communications manager for New Zealand Avocado, a role she held for eight years.

Personal growth

“This was the inaugural scholarship awarded by PMA Australia-New Zealand and I hope it will continue, so other young leaders in this country’s fresh produce and floral industries can benefit from it too.

“I would absolutely encourage people in the horticulture industry who are interested in leadership to apply for this scholarship; and for those interested in personal growth and development, there are many other scholarships on offer in New Zealand. Just take a look and get applying,” says Midge, who was one of two communications people on the course.

Her skills in that area meant the team she was part of nominated her to face ‘the media’ when the team’s mock company had a food safety scare.

The graduation ceremony for the course was in October and coincided with the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Convention & Expo in Orlando attended by 1000 exhibitors and up to 24,000 visitors. “It was an amazing trade show and I was fascinated by the range of fresh produce and food innovation and how companies were marketing them.”

Darling Group

Much of what she learned during the course will be invaluable in Midge’s new role where she’s responsible for the development and delivery of Darling Group’s communications strategy, including stakeholder communication, internal communications, marketing support and media liaison.

Her roles include those for Just Avocados Ltd, the Katikati-based fully integrated specialist avocado service company involved in growing, harvesting, packing, exporting and international marketing for its growers and the Australian-based company J.H. Leavy & Co the Darling Group has recently acquired. This is one of the oldest established fruit and vegetable wholesaling businesses in the Brisbane Markets at Rocklea, and has been trading since 1907.

Midge is passionate about the avocado industry and is driven to achieve outcomes that make a positive difference for stakeholders.

“I’m enjoying my new role – being part of a business so closely involved with growers is rewarding,” says Midge, who grew up on an organic avocado orchard in the Bay of Plenty that her parents still run.


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