Bold Leadership

Resolve Conflict

Bold leadership isn’t about having a flashy title or “laying down the law.” Retired CEO and COO of Walmart, David Glass and Don Soderquist, suggest that it’s less glamorous than that. In this post, produced in partnership with Soderquist Leadership, David and Don share that one characteristic of bold leadership is simply to embrace conflict and learn how to resolve it well.

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 say there’s no reason to be afraid of confrontation. Healthy disagreements and arguments have always been a part of Walmart’s success. They share a few examples of these conflicts, including one standing weekly meeting with their company’s operations and merchandising teams. 

What did you feel as David described the environment of the Friday afternoon meeting with the operations and merchandising teams? Were you comfortable with the idea of heated arguments or did it make you nervous?
Log In to Continue

How comfortable are you with disagreement in your workplace? Why?
Log In to Continue

David described the arguments these two teams had as “healthy.” How would you describe a healthy disagreement?
Log In to Continue

What value do you see in disagreements?
Log In to Continue

David and Don say that Walmart employees, teams, and coworkers were free to argue their side of an issue for as long as they needed to, but once a decision was made, everyone was required to support that decision and move on. All were expected to look out not for their own interests, but instead for what was best for the company.  

What value do you see in this model of conflict resolution? Do you see any problems with it?
Log In to Continue

Another general rule at Walmart was that arguments in leadership would take place in offices, not in front of people. What value do you see in that practice?
Log In to Continue

Don says that certain, seemingly small, things they did in leadership—creating space for disagreements, arguing behind closed doors, and supporting each other’s decisions—traveled through the grapevine and influenced the people and culture of Walmart. That’s bold leadership.  

Make Mistakes

In this next video, David and Don suggest other tools for bold leadership at work. Listen as they discuss how to handle mistakes, what innovation looks like, and various pitfalls to avoid.  

Mistakes. Much like disagreements and confrontation, we often feel like they are something to avoid. “If I make a mistake,” we worry, “I’ve failed. I’m not good at my job.” David and Don correct this. It’s not only OK to make mistakes, it’s actually good too. Making mistakes means you’re taking risks and being innovative.  

How do you feel about mistakes? Are you comfortable making them? Willing to own up to them and their consequences?
Log In to Continue

It’s easy to try to hide our mistakes, bury them in order to protect ourselves and our reputation. David says it's important for individuals and companies to admit their mistakes, though. Everybody makes them! And often an organization can learn more from realizing what not to do than from always trying to make up new things to do.  

What value do you see in acknowledging your mistakes?
Log In to Continue

What’s a mistake you’ve made that you learned a lot from?
Log In to Continue

David and Don have a soft spot for what they call “the mavericks.” Mavericks are the innovators of a company. They can drive people crazy, get in some trouble, and be difficult to manage, but companies need this kind of risk-taker for success.  

What mavericks do you know? In what ways do they drive you crazy? What value do they add to your company?
Log In to Continue

Don says people should never “bet the farm” by taking foolish risks because they can do permanent danger to the company. At the same time, both he and David warn against complacency and bureaucracy. Complacency is what happens when companies think they’ve arrived; they get lazy, stop taking risks, and become stagnant. Bureaucracy puts all the power up top and destroys initiative in the company’s primary asset: its people.  

Would you describe yourself as a risk-taker in your organization? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
Log In to Continue

In what ways, if any, is your company guilty of complacency? Bureaucracy? What are some subtle changes you can make to bring risk-taking and innovation to life?
Log In to Continue

Set the Bar High

While not every employee is an entrepreneur, all organizations need to somehow maintain an entrepreneurial spirit. In this closing video, David gives some suggestions for how companies can be bold by setting challenging goals and motivating people to achieve them.  

David says incremental growth for an organization is OK, but it’s not a marker of success. He argues for setting the bar high—setting challenging goals that seem almost impossible to reach. His three-fold approach is:
• Predetermine results
• Sell those results, motivating people to want them
• Figure out how to get there 

What do you think of David’s approach?
Log In to Continue

Have you ever thought about pre-determined results versus incremental improvement? Which has been more of your process?
Log In to Continue

Share some examples of setting a challenging goal, motivating people toward that goal, and then realizing that goal through methodical steps. What is that experience typically like?
Log In to Continue

What is the potential for your organization if you set the bar much higher for results? Share some thoughts on what might happen and who might be affected.
Log In to Continue

David and Don share a lot of insight into what boldness in leadership looks like. They talk about big plans but also—and more importantly—about naming mistakes, disagreeing over specifics, and making concrete plans to achieve results. Bold leadership is about the everyday. It’s about interacting with coworkers in healthy ways, exhibiting humility, and being brave to work toward challenging goals. 

For more great content from the Soderquist Leadership, visit their website, here

Download two free chapters of Don’s book, Live, Learn, Lead, here.