Q&A with Gateway to the Future Panelist Derek Rapp posted 10/09/13

By Jon Franko

Derek Rapp is Monsanto’s Mergers and Acquisitions & New Growth Platform Lead and a member of the Monsanto Advisory Council. He oversees the company’s acquisitions, divestitures and assessments of a wide variety of investment opportunities.

He’s also a panelist at our upcoming summit. Meet Derek below.

What traits do you think are most important in a leader?

Positive spirit, an ability to see interrelationships among seemingly unrelated things, an understanding of people, a clear sense of purpose, and strong communication skills – both speaking and listening.

What was your most memorable role as a young leader? Tell us about that experience.

Growing up, I played water polo for many years. I played the equivalent of center forward, the pivotal position in the offense at that time. I was the youngest member of a traveling team that played a number of high-level tournaments around the country. That was a great opportunity/experience for me. Though young, I had to take charge of the team in the water and instill confidence in my teammates. I worked hard to make sure that I knew my position and was in the best condition possible. Then, I convinced myself that I was ready. In doing so, I hoped I convinced my team that I was ready too.

What do charitable foundations mean to a community, specifically St. Louis?

It’s very difficult for people to make all of the contributions that they would like to make on their own. Foundations bring people and resources together to allow them to benefit from sophistication and critical mass.

As a leader in the community, what do you look for in young people that you might hire or associate with?

I look for people who understand “the big picture” – who understand the main objectives in situations and who have a clear sense of purpose. I look for humility, courage, conviction, and character. Humility is required for a person to be willing and able to learn. Courage is required for taking risks and for saying the “tough things” that need to be said sometimes. Conviction is required to stay persistent and to know that the endeavor is worth it. Character is required to stay on track doing the right things and also to inspire people to follow.

What’s your secret to balancing a healthy personal, professional and volunteer-driven life?

There’s no secret. A person simply has to do almost everything consciously. Have a plan. Keep the long term in mind. Take care of yourself. Do the things that you need to do. Enjoy the process and not just the results.

If you could invite any three people to dinner (deceased or living), who would they be, and where in St. Louis would you go?

Kelvin Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr. We could eat at any high school lunch room in St. Louis City. I would want these three people to discuss opportunities to address one of the greatest challenges that we face as a city – the education of our children in the City of Saint Louis.

What book has had the biggest impact on your life?

The Art of Styling Sentences was a great guide for me as I learned sentence structure and ways to make writing more interesting and targeted for different situations. Writing remains an essential skill.

If you were a shoe, what kind would you be?

A golf shoe. I know it sounds corny, but for those people who play golf, I think they reveal a lot about themselves on the golf course. Do they cheat? Are they positive and able to overcome adversity? Are they supportive of their playing partners/opponents? Do they enjoy the walk and not just the times they succeed?

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