Friday, February 6, 2009

Qualities of Leadership

Based on my research of Sam Walton and my previous work experience at Wal-Mart I believe that Sam would be classified as a “controller.” Sam was eagerly ambitious and extremely competitive. Competition was what drove him to create many of his innovative retail practices such as discounting. Sam was extremely strong-willed and when faced with an obstacle he would always come up with a way around it. He was quick to respond to his competitors and that helped make him so successful. He was extremely intelligent and used this to reach logical solutions when faced with problems.

Sam’s secondary behavior characteristic is that of a “promoter.” He was able to use enthusiasm to persuade people to invest in his retail dream. He was able to motivate his employees with his friendly manner. As an employee of Wal-Mart I was able to participate in and somewhat enjoy the Wal-Mart cheer. Sam’s “aw shucks” persona made people feel at home and participate in such motivating activities. He used his imagination and creativity to build his retail empire.

The dust bowl caused many people to lose their farms and one of his father’s jobs was to repossess these farms for the bank. As a youngster Sam saw first-hand the devastating effects of being poor; this made him work even harder so he would never have to face poverty. Another major turning point for Sam was when he built up his first successful store and then had to abandon his efforts because the owner of the building would not renew his lease. The owner wanted to give the store to his son. Sam eventually opened another store in that same town and forced the rival store to go out-of-business. Sam always learned from his misfortunes and from that point on he leased all of his properties for 99 years. If Sam would have listened to his first boss who told him that retail was not the business for him, we wouldn’t have Wal-Mart today.

McHenry, S. (1998, December 7). Sam Walton. Time. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from
Thompson, M. (Writer), & Cascio, M. (Director/Producer). (1997). A & E Biography-Sam Walton Bargain Billionaire [Television Series Episode]. New York: A&E Television Networks.


  1. In the business world, I think is it important to have controller leadership qualities. My husband and I own a computer business. It is primarily my husband's business since I am in education. We still work together to control how and what will transpire within the business. We have had to make changes over the 25 years that it has existed. If we weren't able to respond quickly and remain competitive, I feel we would not have been able to sustain 2 decades in this rural community. We have seen other small Mom and Pop computer business come and go. Many thought we would struggle when Wal-mart came to Honesdale. We are actually busier than ever and have hired 3 employees since the opening of Wal-Mart. We changed and adjusted to our community needs and are still going strong. Maybe not to the degree as Sam Walton, but enough to keep the roof over our heads and food on the table.

  2. I think business owners need to be promoters in order to do well in business. They have to sell their ideas and concepts to the public in order for them to buy into it. If they don't their business will fail. Promoters need to use creative ideas in order to do so. Sam Walton has done well at promoting his ideas and business concepts making him one of America's richest businessmen.

  3. As “promoters” both Walton and Jobs were the “faces” of the companies they founded. Each possessed the energy and enthusiasm to build unique corporate cultures, as well as to create loyal customers. Walton and Jobs both founded companies which changed industries. At one time, it didn’t seem possible that a company located in a small Arkansas town could become the nation’s largest retailer; Sears and Kmart had a head start and the competitive edge. Similarly, it didn’t seem possible that Apple could challenge MicroSoft, or that PIXAR, Jobs’ other company, could out-animate Disney.

    As “controllers”, both Walton and Jobs were eagerly ambitious, competitive and persistently thorough. A workaholic, Walton was meticulous about cutting costs and offering the low prices. A “maniac on a mission”, Jobs was obsessed with simplicity, easy-of-use, and artful design.

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  5. Hi Christina,

    I believe you have hit the nail on the head in terms of the controller and promoter personality. These were obviously vital attributes which helped him be a persistent and determined leader that encouraged people to follow his vision. I thought the story regarding his building, the landlord's son, and the eventual demise of the new store was an excellent example of determination and competitive spirit.

    As I read Dave's comments I believe he did a strong job of linking the similarities of the two men together. These connections are important as they both havelead small start-ups that are now so successful on the national landscape.