Leading for the Well-Being of Others

with Mike Haddad, President and CEO, Schreiber Foods

Patrick and Mike sit down over coffee to talk about Mike’s philosophy on leadership. Mike shares his thoughts on why Schreiber’s brand and values matter, the importance of leading for the good of others, and what it really takes to be a leader people will want to follow. Schreiber Foods is a customer-brand dairy company specializing in yogurt, natural cheese, process cheese and cream cheese. Headquartered in Green Bay, Schreiber employs more than 7,000 people in locations across North America, Europe, South America and Asia.


Pat: Mike Haddad, welcome to Coffee and CEOs.
Mike: I feel like in this role, but also I feel like as a husband to my wife and a father to my children, and now our grandchildren, that I want to be a positive, stabilizing force.
Pat: You guys have been on an incredible ride over the last number of years. And you’ve been CEO for how long now?
Mike: I’m coming into my ninth year.
Pat: Ninth year, ninth year, okay.
Mike: Yup.
Pat: So you guys are over five billion now.
Mike: In revenue, yup.
Pat: You’ve got over 7,000 people in the company.
Mike: Yes.
Pat: Worldwide.
Mike: Yes.
Pat: Just going gangbusters. Tell us a little bit about the company and what you do, because you guys are, you’re probably the best-kept secret, even though you’re all over the world.
Mike: Schreiber is a B2B company.
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: So part of the reason you don’t know us is that we sell all of our goods to other companies. But we’re actually feeding billions of people around the world. So, we’re one of the largest dairy companies in the world.
Pat: Yeah chances are anybody watching this has used your products.
Mike: I’d take that bet.
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: So, the companies that we produce for are all the major retailers, food service companies, and many of the great food brands in the world. I guarantee you, you know them.
Pat: Yup.
Mike: Okay?
Pat: Yup.
Mike: Now, part of the reason that they don’t like everybody to know who’s making their product is, candidly, they control the specification.
Pat: Correct.
Mike: So we’re really, in many ways you can think of us as a contract manufacturer. Now, they don’t have the capability of making these products, so we bring all the acumen and the skills and the assets to do it. But we’re making it to their specification.
Pat: Sure.
Mike: Now, here’s the more strategic view on this: transparency, transparency, transparency. People want to know where their food’s coming from.
Pat: Right.
Mike: So, part of the reason why at Schreiber we’ve actually undergone an evolution to speak more about ourselves—not in a boastful way—is because, when the world discovers us—and they are, more and more—we want to shine. We want people to know that we stand for something, that we’ve contemplated who we are and what business we’re in, and what we stand for. And so, when people say, “Where’s that food coming from?”—some of our customers are saying, “Geez, that’s, that’s coming from Schreiber Foods. They care about their community, and we’re partnering with suppliers that, that have good values.”
Pat: And I know values have been very important to Schreiber over the years, and you obviously have been a good fit with that—I’ve heard you talk about servant leadership before.
Mike: Yup.
Pat: When you came in, you had a leadership team that you inherited, and you had to decide how you were going to lead them, and I know you came up with a term, “willing followers?”
Mike: Yeah, yeah sure.
Pat: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Mike: I just fundamentally believe that to be a, to be a leader—and this is not whether you have people directly reporting to you or not, forget that—
Pat: Exactly.
Mike: It’s just that leadership is people that are really willing to follow you because they want to, not because they have to.
Pat: Right.
Mike: And so, then you go, “Well how, how do you create a scenario like that where people actually want to go somewhere with you?”
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: Okay? It comes down to trust. And how is that trust built? Well, I think it starts right away with believing in someone as a person, in their true humanity and their character. That’s where it starts. Then I think it gets more rich from there about, “If we do things together and we achieve things and we do it well, then I want to do that again.”
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: “I’d like to be part of that.”

For me personally, though, all of it has to be for the well-being of others. I don’t care whether it’s your family, or the people you lead, or the community. But for me, the ultimate satisfaction I get is by doing something that actually provides benefit to somebody other than me. Now I’m not foolish. As you can appreciate, there’s a lot of reward that comes from that.

Pat: Yeah.
Mike: A lot, I mean just a lot of reward that comes back by seeing good done for others. But I think, I think for me that’s how I’ve chosen to lead. And I would say some of it, candidly, was innate. I don’t think I ever thought about it differently, but I was blessed to be surrounded by many leaders who felt the same way.
Pat: What were some of your biggest challenges coming in as a new leader, a new head of the organization?
Mike: The challenge is, when you’re now responsible for for—say now you’re leading in a company—for somebody’s development. You have to participate in that. Now, they own it, but you’re their leader, you’ve got to—in some cases you’re the mentor providing advice on all kinds of topics, sometimes its pure coaching, which is “we’ve got to talk about this”—the challenge is just being good at that and being effective and being humane. I’ll say the other things, too, you know, as people go through all kinds of things in life—it’s the beautiful stuff, the marriages and the births and the graduations, but it’s the divorces and the passing of loved ones—and you’ve got to find the words—
Pat: It’s not just their activities between 8 and 5, right?
Mike: No!
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: You’re trying to find the words to express empathy, enthusiasm and—but you know what I’ve always felt like? Just be human. Don’t overthink it. You’re the leader, you don’t, but you don’t have all the answers.
Pat: Yeah.
Mike: You don’t have to have all the answers. But I—going back to what was—I think the biggest challenge is always not the technical acumen—although there’s certain things we’ve got to know to do our jobs well—it’s how can you, how can you lead and impact people that have so many different points of views and so many different experiences and keep them, and keep everybody moving in the same direction.

See more videos with Mike Haddad, President and CEO, Schreiber Foods

Mike Haddad on Communicating Internally
Mike Haddad on Core Values
Mike Haddad on Driving Innovation
Mike Haddad on Leadership Styles
Mike Haddad on Managing Change
Mike Haddad on Staying Positive

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