Aim Higher: Former Dollar General CEO Cal Turner, Jr

Servant Leader: Cal Turner, Jr

Cal Turner, Jr. was the driving force behind the massive growth of Dollar General. What began as his father’s idea and a small chain is now a $20 billion retailing empire with over 14,000 stores.

I love a good story, and Cal Turner, Jr. is a terrific storyteller. It’s an awesome part of what makes him a great leader. And the story of how he approached leadership transition planning is an inspirational and educational one.

As the son of the founder, Turner knew that it was his job to take Dollar General from being an entrepreneurial success—his father’s expertise—to the next level, as a large, successful public company. And to do that, he realized early on that he’d need to develop a leadership style that would attract new leaders who could be successful without being part of the family itself. How insightful is that? To look beyond the personal privilege of being the founder’s child and consider that the next CEO would absolutely need to be someone that’s different than yourself?

 

“I don’t believe the CEO who describes his mission as making money is fully worthy of his responsibility.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

Leaders Plan for the Future

It’s a question I think every aspiring leader needs to ask: how will my successor need to differ from me? What skills and strengths will they need that aren’t necessarily my own? Leadership is all about planning for the future. And, odds are, the future will impose very different challenges and requirements on the people who take over when you leave. Not a bad idea to start thinking about that today, as you groom people within your organization.

The story of Dollar General’s growth is compelling and one that offers many lessons for all of us, even if we aren’t in the midst of a global expansion.

 

“Leadership is about inspiring someone to go for their best.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

Leadership Lessons from Two Piano Teachers

Cal and I talked about servant leadership, family businesses, leadership transitions, entrepreneurial growth, community philanthropy, and leadership values. We spoke about his inspiring personal story.

In our discussion, Cal shared the tale of two piano teachers and how this impacted his leadership:

One was critical and created an environment of guilt and blame. The other was inspiring and helped him to dig deeper to do his best.

And those leadership concepts powered him throughout his life. He wanted to be the leader who inspired, who helped others do their best, who supported personal growth.

 

“A leader is one who helps others want to dig deeper into themselves.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

I hope you enjoy the conversation with Cal Turner, Jr.

 

Click here to listen on iTunes

 

 

 

My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values that Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company

 

“People will forgive you anything before they forgive you for being successful.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

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