Lee Scott’s 10 Steps to Leadership Success

Discussion
Aug 26, 2009

By George Anderson

Lee
Scott, the former chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, spoke to a group
of honorees at the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal‘s 40
Under 40 event and offered his personal list of 10 steps needed to succeed:

  • Hiring people better than yourself
    will make it easier to achieve success.
  • Reigning in ego because it is an impediment
    to leadership.
  • Tell people what you want and you will
    often receive it.
  • Give others honest constructive feedback.
  • Remember few people feel as though
    they have a handle of things.
  • What is heard and how it is heard is
    more important than what you say.
  • You can be wrong about things you feel
    strongly about.
  • Harsh critics may be saying the very
    things you need to hear.
  • Don’t look to share praise, give it
    all away to others.
  • Integrity is the most important thing.

Discussion
Questions: What do you think of Lee Scott’s advice on becoming a better leader? Are there any you would add?

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23 Comments on "Lee Scott’s 10 Steps to Leadership Success"


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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

There’s a lot of wisdom in all of these, and Walmart’s re-emergence as ‘the one to beat’ as opposed to just the big Goliath everyone wants to bring down are no doubt driven from this leadership style.

No question there were fits and starts, but Walmart has really hit the right note across marketing, merchandising and technology over the past few years.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 8 months ago

What a great list! I will be sending this one out to a number of my contacts. Point number 2 is my favorite.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I’d add, be open to honest feedback and acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. Where did, “Remember few people feel as though they have a handle of things” come from? It smacks of elitism.

Steven Collinsworth
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

All people, in a management position or not, working or not, should read this and really take time to reflect, absorb and internalize these points.

By the way, point #2 to me is the most important of all. There are way too many egos that won’t fit in the building they work in today.

Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

These are good life lessons, not just management lessons, although so broad in their application that they might not always be easy to “teach” in a business setting. And there are a few built-in contradictions on the list, for example:

–Tell people what you want and you will often receive it.

–You can be wrong about things you feel strongly about.

It’s up to others to judge whether Mr. Scott and the Walmart team successfully lived up to his “ten commandments” or not.

Ian Percy
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I’ve been handing out posters of “The 11 Commandments for an Enthusiastic Team” to my clients for years. To Mr. Scott’s list I’d add the eleventh one … Have Fun!

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

These have great balance. I would suggest a more foundational one: If you don’t know what you want, you may not like what you get. That’s intended to keep the eye on the ball!

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

If you’d have to pick someone to study for leadership advice, Lee Scott would have to be near the top of the list….

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
11 years 8 months ago

Nice list…I would add one thing and it goes along the lines of Herb’s comment…”Have a vision for the organization and repeat it often.” Too often it seems that organizations are “rudderless.” It boils down to the classic “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?” The leader has to set a goal for the rest of the organization that is clear. Then a lot of Lee’s comments come into play as the leader gets out of the way and lets the individuals carry the organization to its goals.

A key point is that this “vision thing” applies down to each department. Each department head, understanding the overall goal of their area of the business, needs to set a vision for their department that aligns it with the business area.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I will add my vote to this outstanding list. What is confounding though is how many of today’s corporate leaders break every rule.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 8 months ago

Definitely agree–a good list for retail today. Point number 5–what is heard and how it is heard is more important than what you say. Words to consider often!

When Walmart developed their sustainability program, it surely took leadership to transform their organization. We have heard this over and over–that sustainability is the way they do business. People believe this new direction for Walmart as their many initiatives from downsizing laundry product containers to new efficiencies in energy and supply chain have become the new standards. Walmart could achieve these huge changes in their organization with Scott’s leadership, and the retail industry recognizes much can be achieved.

Jeff Hall
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Mr. Scott’s lessons on leadership are certainly relevant, and resonate strongly. I too agree with others’ thoughts on adding a foundational lesson with regard to vision. High performance organizations are comprised of high performance people. High performance people need to clearly understand and align their efforts to a clear organizational objective and vision.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 8 months ago

Lee Scott has a wonderful handle on how to be a successful leader. In my opinion, Integrity is the most important one on the list. Without that it is tough to achieve or follow through on the other 9 Scott has listed.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 8 months ago

Lee Scott’s list is great. But I would add the following two suggestions:

Take risks.

Don’t be boring.

There are a lot of leaders today who can benefit by this list, as well as the additional suggestions provided by the RetailWire Brain Trust.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 8 months ago

These are all very good. I would add one more, something along the lines of: leaders take all the best judgments of the people they have surrounded themselves with, formulates a vision, points the way by communicating the vision clearly, and takes the first step themselves in that direction.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I had my comment already written on this one, then I stepped back and re-read the previous and discovered that Mr. Boccuzzi already said it–word for word. Interestingly enough, the percentages in the survey bear out agreement. You can have all the other 9 items, but without integrity–nothing!

Great list from an unquestionably great leader. (In spite of what I may think of Wal-Mart’s ambitions of world dominance, you certainly can’t question either his success or the company he led.)

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
Start the list with Honesty and Integrity, and leaders are positioned to keep the other “Most Important” items flowing forward. Scott clearly demonstrated that he exercised Honesty and Integrity, and thus the Walmart organization–worldwide–has been positioned to follow along on a similar path to success. Scott’s advice to the 40 Under 40 is also reminiscent of the nation’s greatest retailer of over 130 years ago. Marshall Field’s guidance to himself and his charges at the time were captured in his “Things to Remember”: 1. The worth of Character2. Improvement of Talent3. Influence of Example4. Joy of Origination5. Dignity of Simplicity6. Success of Perseverance7. Value of Time8. Pleasure of Working9. Obligation of Duty10. Power of Kindness11. Wisdom of Economy12. Virtue of Patience That world-renowned Retailer built an organization that was the leader of its time, just as Walmart has contributed to building its legacy. Both extended their contributions well beyond just Retailing. And, both kept the Consumer as central figures in their strategic and operational thinking. “Each Walmart store should reflect the values of its CUSTOMERS… Read more »
William Passodelis
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Roger Saunders said it all! Thank You Mr. Saunders. And Thank you Mr. Scott for such great leadership and such a great example to everyone.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

My personal favorite is “Tell people what you want and you will often receive it.” It’s so true; most of the time we do not know what we really want, and if know it, very rarely do we express it in the right way. Great words of wisdom!!

My suggestion to the list–Never stop dreaming.

Kai Clarke
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

These are great rules to live, manage, and decide by. There are a few others that we must all not forget:

“The customer may not always be right but he is never wrong.”

“Do it right, do it now, do it right now!”

“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.”

“The smart man learns from the mistakes of others, the fool from his own.”

Listen first, think second, speak last.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

This is a great list and integrity with a strong moral compass should be the guiding light at the top from which all else flows.

The large corporate enterprise continues to be challenged to allow some of the items on the list to be adopted and I feel it is the entrepreneur who can fully realize the benefits of implementing each item on the list.

That said, each person is responsible for himself and should accept the mantle of integrity, check pride at the door, and listen to colleagues just a bit more. That will help in any business setting.

Thanks Lee!

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 8 months ago

Never was a big fan of lists, especially those that are supposedly designed to lead to success. That said, what I really like about Scott’s list is the overall theme–what I would call a lot of good, old-fashioned common sense. Be plainspoken, hire talented/smart people (and listen to them), don’t surround yourself with yes men and lead with honesty and humility–that’s common sense and that’s what so many of our so-called leaders lack.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
11 years 8 months ago
Lee’s comments are well-taken and show a thoughtful leadership style. Essentially, a leader helps the organization develop and adapt a vision for the future and then enables the organization to achieve that vision. Note that the key words I have used are “help” and “enables.” The leader is primarily a facilitator, helping to install and reinforce company values and then providing the team with the tools they need to have to be successful. As a result, I selected the lack of ego as the greatest attribute that a leader can have, along with integrity. I have found that having a strong ego as a leader tends to cause the people around that leader to spend too much time trying to “position” their information and therefore less time trying to solve the problem. The time spend managing up clearly detracts from the time spent optimizing the business. It gets worse too–often the people who are spending their time managing up are the most talented–the ones the company needs to have focused on growing the business. “Work… Read more »
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