Leadership and Life Lessons from Cal Turner, Jr.

Click above to watch our video interview.

 

Small-Town Values that Power a Multi-Billion Dollar Company

 

You likely have heard of Dollar General. It’s a retail powerhouse generating over $20B in revenue from its more than 14,000 stores.

Though he would never take an ounce of credit, Cal Turner, Jr. was the driving force behind the massive growth and success of the retailing giant. The leadership transition from his father, and later to non-family leadership, is told brilliantly in My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values that Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company. Cal Turner’s new book is a mix of autobiography and business advice.

Even if you don’t run a business, you will find the book a compelling read. It is full of life lessons that will encourage and challenge you.

Having lived in Nashville for a number of years, I can vouch for the fact that the Turner family is well-known for their philanthropic work and for living out their servant leadership values. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a raving fan of his philosophy, his giving, and his leadership. I have been for years. So, it was a great honor for me to talk with Cal Turner, Jr. about his family, his business, and about his leadership.

I hope you enjoy our conversation which spanned all of these topics. His book is proudly within grasp on my bookshelf.

 

Cal Turner, Jr. grew up in Scottsville, Kentucy. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, he served for three years in the United States Navy before beginning a career at Dollar General. He served as CEO for 37 years. In that time, stores rose from 150 to over 6,000 and sales from $40 million to more than $6 billion. He has served on numerous boards and has received more awards than can be listed here. He is a shining example of servant leadership long after his retirement.

 

my father's business

“A leader inspires someone to go for his or her best.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

“A leader is one who helps others to want to dig deeper into themselves and to be part of a success that’s bigger than they are.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

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

 

“Leadership exists when an organization overcomes having a boss or a boss mentality. A boss only gets results; a leader gets development.” -Cal Turner, Jr.

 

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

 

For more information, see My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values that Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company.

Unleash the Power of Brand-Culture Fusion for Maximum Growth

fusion

Having read more books than I can name about leadership, branding, and culture, I am surprised at how rare it is to see one that combines the power of all of them.

But that’s just what my friend Denise Lee Yohn did in her exceptional new book, FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Great Companies.

As one of the world’s leading authorities on brand-building, Denise tackles one of the most important and overlooked aspects of a strong brand: company culture.

It’s the FUSION of brand and culture that creates organizational power.

After reading the book, which I also proudly endorsed, I followed up with Denise to talk about her research into brand and culture.

 

The Importance of Culture

Denise, you are well known for your work on branding. This book takes a different turn as it is as much, if not more, about organizational culture. Tell us about why you decided to address culture.

FUSION actually came out of my work with clients on strengthening and/or repositioning their brands.  I found that our efforts were sometimes held back from making as much of an impact as they could have because of cultural issues inside the organization. If the culture of the organization wasn’t aligned with the brand, some leaders wouldn’t want to include culture as part of brand-building, or they didn’t appreciate the need to align and integrate their brand and culture — to create brand-culture fusion — and that prevented them from realizing the full potential of their organization and their brand.

 

“Great brands are built from the inside out.” -Denise Lee Yohn

 

You say that a key leadership responsibility is the integration of culture and brand. Has this always been true? What are the best ways to accomplish this?

Brand-culture fusion has always required strong leadership from the top of the organization, but it has become more important in recent years, given the corporate culture crisis that has arisen. Leaders can no longer assume their organizations will have a healthy culture if they’re nice and decent people — it takes deliberate effort to cultivate a unique, valuable, sustainable culture.

 

“You must accept the challenge to lead your organization to greatness.” -Denise Lee Yohn

 

Drop Your Mission Statement

Why Values and a Purpose are Vital for Leaders Today

purpose

Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.

Have you worked under someone who was so assured and stood their ground that no matter what happened, he or she knew what mattered? Then you’ve probably worked with a leader who has strong, unshakeable values. It’s not about the money, recognition or power. These values that drive them are something bigger. Finding your purpose is one thing. Finding it as a leader is an entirely different subject. It’s not about emulating other successful leaders or key figures in the industry; it’s about identifying your real values in life, knowing that this gives you a definite purpose for making the tough decisions as a leader. Let’s go about finding out how these things can be so vital to being a better leader.

 

The Making Of A Better Leader

Making decisions is what leaders do. They get paid to make the tough calls. But what’s more important are the values of a leader. It gives the team consistency and stability. What I mean by that is this: having a set of values will give a team a direction, a company culture, and adds some meaning to the work that is being done. All these start from the top, the leader, and flows down to every level. Now every leader has their values, and they can differ from one to another. Two good leaders can have completely different values. So what exactly is a value and how does it help one become a better leader?

 

“Great people have great values and great ethics.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

 

What Are Values?

Values are what is important to us—in other words, what we value, or the thing that drives us. People will have certain core values which help shape them into who they are today. The same values can also be different for everyone. For example, if two people value love, they can show it in very different ways through their actions or vocally. It’s sad to think that even though we all have values, when it comes to working, we tend to adopt the values we were taught to follow. Unfortunately, these values can hurt us, and it’s not something we would like to associate with our real values.

 

The Purpose Of A Leader

Harvard Business Review states that based on the author’s understanding, less than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of individual purpose. These same leaders can tell us the mission statement of the company, but they lack the sole purpose that makes them stand out as a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or told to lead a small team of three, your purpose is what makes you, you. It’s your why: why you’re working, why you want to lead the team and more. That’s the difference between leaders, and a good leader has an ultimate purpose. This is why some leaders get remembered and acknowledged long after they’re gone.

 

How to Find Your Purpose?

Compete and Keep Your Soul

values based leadership
This is a guest post by Jeff Thompson, MD. Jeff is the author ofLead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community and he is CEO Emeritus and Executive Advisor at Gundersen Health System.

 

Compete and Keep Your Soul

The bookstores have volumes and the media is full of examples of people who believe the way to success is to crush the competition—out-strategizing people and pressing your advantage till they are crushed by the wayside. Young leaders are told to step on faces to get ahead or aim for short term goals of size and profit.

But there is another way. There is a clear path to have stunning success and still be able to sleep at night and be proud to tell your grandchildren how the world is a better place because you were in it.

Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.  It is not complicated. It is just difficult.

 

“Values-based, not ego-based, leadership focuses on serving the greater good and accomplishing a higher purpose.” -Jeff Thompson

 

Let’s take for example the last broad economic downturn.

How are the priorities in your department or company organized to deal with this problem? Who were the first to be affected? The most vulnerable? The last people who were brought in the organization (your future)? The people with the least power and the least influence? Who took the biggest beating? What won the day? The long-term good of the organization or the short-term financial performance report for the board? Shareholders may clamor for short-term wins, but there is no law that says you have to sacrifice the long-term health of the organization or its people to satisfying this immediate clamor. Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.

 

“Decision making guided by values takes courage, discipline and durability.” -Jeff Thompson

How to Find Your Voice as a Leader

Learn to be an Influential Leader

Do you want to increase your influence?

Do you want to find your voice?

Do you want to be a more powerful leader?

Of course you do.

 

“Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs.” –Stephen Covey

 

Learning to be an effective, influential leader is a lifelong goal for most of us. That’s why I read all I can from as many different sources as possible.

Coach, consultant, and speaker Paul Larsen believes that anyone can become a more powerful leader. His new book, Find Your Voice as a Leader, offers a model to help everyone become a better leader. Paul’s many corporate roles, including Chief Human Resources Officer for a $3 billion organization, makes him an ideal teacher. I recently asked him to share his experience and the research in his new book.

 

“Speak with intent so that you can lead with vision.” –Paul Larsen

  

Find Your Voice as a Leader

What does it mean to “find your voice”?

As an executive coach, I partner with leaders across all industries and within all types of organizations.  I have found that a resulting impact of the politics and the normative structures of organizations is that the creative talents, or voices, of leaders are stifled into an expected pattern of behavior.  Leaders learn quickly that to succeed is to “go with the flow” and not make waves.  Their unique voice can be easily silenced.

Thus, many leaders get lost in the noise of today’s chaotic business environment. They remain quiet instead of speaking up, even when they have an opinion. They follow someone else’s decision instead of doing what they really want to do. They let the chatter in their head get the best of them, and they end up second guessing every action or step they take. Or they remain with the status quo instead of taking any action at all. They hide behind others instead of making their own decisions.

To “find your voice as a leader” is to create a compelling and unique leadership brand by:

– Discovering your critical leadership VALUES;

– Creating a compelling vision to get the OUTCOMES you desire;

– Building relationships with INFLUENCE and credibility;

– Making decisions that reveal your COURAGE to take a stand;

– Communicating your overall EXPRESSION to create a lasting legacy.

 

Study: 70 to 80% of people can be trained to be effective leaders.

 

Define Your Core Beliefs and Values

How do you define leadership values?

Your values are your core beliefs and ideals that guide your decisions, your worldview, your insights, your actions, and your communications. Your values are the principles you believe are important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities, and, deep down, they are the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. This is the primary reason identifying your values is so important. Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Yet, your leadership impact will be much more confident and stronger when you know and acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honor them.

 

What happens when our values are in conflict?  

When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. However, when the environment and the accompanying actions and beliefs don’t align with your values, life feels out of sorts, and it can be a real source of discontent and unhappiness. This misalignment of our values is one of the core sources of dis-engagement at work and occurs on a very regular basis. We make compromises on a daily basis, and within our corporate environment, we make compromises as they pertain to values when matched against the values of the organization. But when these compromises are made on a consistent basis and/or the compromises create a very large “values gap” between the individual and the organization, this can result in a feeling of dis-engagement and lack of commitment. And it will not be solved until the individual decides to take deliberate action on this compromise and ask, “Is this the type of environment that will provide me the ability to do my best work or do I need to plan for a change?”

 

“Leadership is influence.” –John C. Maxwell

 

How does identifying your values set you apart from other leaders? 

We are all governed by a set of values that act as our “inner GPS.”  Our values govern our decisions, our judgments, our communication and our overall worldview.  They shape who we are.  Leaders who identify their core set of values and lead out front with their values are more confident, more courageous and more influential versus leaders who do not. Values are more than just a “set of words on a laminated card,” they are the core DNA of every leader and are the ingredients of the legacy each leader leaves behind.

 

Don’t Get Marooned on Intention Island