Little Things in Big Leadership


It’s easy in leadership to measure success based on job titles, performance, and the organizational chart. Retired CEO and COO of Walmart, David Glass and Don Soderquist, though, measured it differently. They share several simple factors to encourage you in your leadership.

David Glass joined Walmart in 1976, and under his leadership, Walmart became the nation’s largest retail company. Don Soderquist served at Walmart for over twenty years and was known as “The Keeper of the Culture.” He is now the Founding Executive for Soderquist Leadership, a leadership development provider for organizations of all sizes. 

David and Don said that one of their keys to success has been their similarities. Their similar upbringings, education, and business experience helped them worked together for Walmart’s success.  

Who is someone you lead with who shares similar gifts and background as you? In what ways have your similarities been a blessing to you personally and also positively impacted the work you do together?
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David and Don do have differences, though, and those differences complimented each other in business. While Don is more of a people person, David is more matter-of-fact, and he was able to communicate well with the investment community in the marketplace.  

What are your strengths in leadership? In what ways do they compliment the very different gifts of the people on your team?
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Trust has been an essential ingredient to David and Don’s teamwork. Don said there can’t be any ego; team members need to work together for the good of the organization and be confident in each other’s abilities as leaders.  

To what extent do you trust the other leaders in your organization? Is your team in need of trusting each other more for success?
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David said their motive was to help people be all they can be—both their team and the customers they serve. He and Don weren’t concerned about what they could do to improve their own positions.  

Is your organization known as one that puts people first, or are individuals merely putting themselves first? What are some steps you can take to shift your organization’s culture to look outward more?
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Clearly the relationship David and Don shared was a key to their success; they respected each other greatly in business and established trust early on. In this next video, they will share how humility was essential in their leadership.   

In this clip, David talked about how he could tell a lot about Don’s character by the way he first came to work at Walmart. Though Don easily could have worked higher in the organization (and was actually given the chance to years before), he came in merely eager to help and served in a lower position.  

Humility is often an underrated trait in leadership. To what extent do you value humility? What value do you believe it brings to an organization or team?
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Proverbs 11:2 (ESV)

2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace,

but with the humble is wisdom.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Romans 12:3-8 (ESV)

Gifts of Grace

3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.4For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,5so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;7if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching;8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture is full of references on humility! Time and time again, God tells His people that He despises pride but loves humility. What stood out to you in these verses about humility? Do any other Scriptures come to mind? If so, what are they?
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Sometimes people associate humility with weakness. Don’s humility didn’t hinder his ability to be a strong leader at all, though. David said he led his department excellently and took Walmart’s distribution and logistics to a whole new level. 

Don said that David also was a humble leader. He allowed Don to work without interfering and trusted in his abilities. 


David and Don valued each other, their employees, and their customer. Listen as they share more about each of their individual leadership styles as well as a few of their strategies for corporate success. 

David said that Don was a charismatic leader—he had a natural way with people and was intentional in respecting and getting to know them. People respected Don and wanted to work hard to please him because of the relationship they had with him.  

Do you know this kind of leader? How do they make you feel? How does their natural charisma inspire and challenge you?
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Are you this kind of charismatic leader? What responsibility do you feel in building honest relationships with the people you lead?
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Don reiterated David's humility and said he also has a dry sense of humor. One day someone asked David how he ran a 100-billion-dollar organization, and he said “I have no idea.” For David, leadership was not about running a big production. It was simply about taking care of little things day in and day out—working for one customer at a time, one store at a time, one associate at a time.

How might David’s model of leadership benefit you and your organization? What are the challenges to this kind of leading?
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Both Don and David admitted they’ve made mistakes in leadership. They actually like occasional mistakes, though, because it challenges people to take risks and try new things.  

What might happen if you decided to take more risks in leadership?
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Finally, David and Don talked about the kinds of people they hired in leadership. They named the following as important characteristics for potential employees:

• Being a generalist, vs. a specialist

• Integrity in leadership

• Low resistance to change

• Willingness to fail

• Capacity for growth

What’s on your list? What do you value in potential hires for your organization? Consider making a “Top 5” list.
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Honor the Past

In all their leadership, David and Don say there was one thing they did that was way beyond good strategy. Listen as they share how they honored Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.  

David and Don said that one of the best things they did in leadership at Walmart was to honor Sam Walton. They wanted to keep him as an integral part of the company’s history and success after he died, and they wanted to celebrate his legacy. Not only was this a gracious way to lead, but it also ensured a smooth transition. 

Have you ever experienced a “rocky” transition in leadership? How was that transition connected or disconnected to the leadership that came before?
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Sometimes new leaders have a different approach than David and Don's. Seeing themselves as “the next best thing,” they try to lead disconnected to an organization’s past. 

What value do you see in a company honoring its past? Does your organization have a history you can celebrate?
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What danger does erasing the past pose for success? How do you think “forgetting” influences a company’s culture?
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There was a lot to absorb in these videos! What stood out to you as the most important takeaway for leadership in your organization?
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It’s the little things in leadership that make the biggest difference—paying attention to people, working as a team, being humble and honoring the past. As Christians we often celebrate how God does big things in our lives in little ways. Take a few minutes to pray about the seemingly small things you do at your work and in your family. Allow God to multiple and grow those things for His glory and your good! 

For more great content from the Soderquist Leadership, visit their website, here
Download two free chapters of Don’s book, Live, Learn, Leadhere