Cargill’s mission to nourish world inspires executive

| September 23, 2010 | 0 Comments

Emery Koenig, senior vice president at Cargill, talks with his assistant, Sharon Mischke. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

One of the mementoes Emery Koenig keeps on a shelf in his office is a stone turtle that he received at a leadership retreat.

“They said they had never seen an individual with such a tough outer shell, but a very soft underbelly,” he said. “That really described my leadership. . . . I keep the turtle by my desk to remind me of the paradox between the importance of having the armor to protect yourself and, at the same time, to have that soft, human, compassionate touch that is important when engaging the hearts and minds of people.”

Most people have a strength that can become a weakness, said Koenig, who is one of six senior vice presidents at Cargill, Inc.

“One of my strengths is that I have a perseverance and persistence that just doesn’t quit. That’s a very good quality, but I’ve got to pull it back sometimes, because I can get locked on like a heat-seeking missile,” he said.

Perseverance prevails

“It’s one of those personal qualities that’s helped me to be with Cargill for 32 years, to be married for 31 years, to have four children, to go through the adoption process we did, to move to eight different locations, to work overseas half my career,” he said.

That persistence and perseverance has helped him work with others to turn around a number of businesses, including one in the Middle East.

After one of the company’s largest customers in Egypt was killed in a plane accident, Koenig helped get a plant there up and running. “It is now one of our more successful plants,” he said.

Leadership is all about influence, whether that is in a family, a parish or business, Koenig said.

“I was born and raised Catholic and I am still a daily communicant,” he said. “To practice your faith, it takes practice.”

Integrity, principles and ethics with a long-term view are important to Koenig and Cargill, he said.

“To the degree we can make the world a better place, without sounding too trite about it, I think that is a good contribution,” he said.

One of the reasons Koenig has stayed at Cargill is that its mission is to nourish people around the world.

He also has been inspired by his mentors and colleagues at work and individuals in the Catholic Church, such as Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Harry Flynn, Father John Corapi and Chiara Lubich, the late founder of the Focolare Movement.

“That is why I enjoy mentoring people: I always learn something from them,” he said. “Those are inspiring relationships, where you have to have the humility and openness to learn.”

Besides learning every day, Koenig is praying throughout every day.

“My entire day is filled with small simple prayers, recognizing the gifts God has given us and recognizing that presence,” he said.

With new employees, Koenig stresses the importance of integrity and knowing what you stand for and what you won’t stand for.

“I recognize the ways you can help them have clarity . . . helps them in their personal life and at Cargill,” he said.


  • Title: Cargill, Inc. senior vice president
  • Parish: St. Joseph, Waconia
  • Spouse: Karen Koenig
  • Children: Kristina, John, Joseph, Catherine
  • Activities: Black River Asset Mgmt., board chair, United Way campaign at Cargill chair, Minnesota Public Radio board trustee, parish trustee, Focolare Movement, mentor for women and men in Cargill and the greater community


Category: Leading With Faith