President George W. Bush, a guest speaker at this year’s Snaxpo, gave an open and personal account of his time as president and the events of 9-11, shedding light on leadership skills and crisis management.
Manufacturers, suppliers and other industry stakeholders attended the talk, held on the final day of the Snack Food Association’s annual event in Dallas, Texas – the home county and state of the former president. The doors of the session were closed to media.
President Bush’s attendance at Snaxpo 2014 certainly generated a lot of buzz but was also considered a valuable business session by many. While the former president didn’t talk about snacks, attendees told BakeryandSnacks.com there were plenty of relevant messages from him that could be applied to their businesses.
The session was described as an open, fascinating and entertaining account of his time as president, with important insights on the challenges of leadership and particularly how to manage things when a crisis hits.
One attendee said: “The speech was riveting almost from the beginning to the end.”
Stay calm in a crisis…
Those who attended drew inspiration from his “very personal” account of 9-11 events and said it was this recount that prompted Bush to comment on the importance of staying calm as a leader in a crisis – something one attendee said was very relevant today.
“The most useful thing that I got from it, was that in leadership positions, we’re still just people that have to make hard decisions,” another person said.
One attendee said there was a strong message from the ex-president about putting feelings aside and ‘doing the right thing’.
“The message I got was to be fearless and meet head on the challenges that arise. And, as he very clearly explained, don’t panic, trust in the team around you, and resolve the issues as best you can,” another said.
Surround yourself with excellence
Many who reflected on Bush’s speech said that there was a great sense of importance placed on the quality, strength and attributes of a team and its individual members - a business message they could relate to.
“He said to surround yourself with good people and don’t just think you know it all, don’t think you know everything yourself just because you’re the leader or you’re the owner,” one attendee recalled.
Another said: “I thought the most interesting message was his perspective on his leadership style and surrounding himself with people that were excellent in their field of expertize.”
The importance of a clear vision
One person who attended Bush’s speech said he gave a clear message about the need to remain focused on a vision and strategy and to ensure a team collectively understands that vision and how it will be achieved.
One retired marine officer at the tradeshow, who had liaised directly with Bush during his presidency, said communication on a personal level was a strong point of the former president. “He was a very personable man. Whenever you met him, you realized that when you were speaking with him, he was paying attention to you directly.”