Management and Leadership; the Wal-Mart Way

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Management and Leadership; the Wal-Mart Way
Traveling back in time to 1962 in small town America, one would likely notice the absence of a now familiar sight. Today, people living in almost any town in America need not travel far to patronize one of today’s most popular discount retail establishments: Wal-Mart. Founded in 1962, Wal-Mart was the brainchild of Sam Walton, a charismatic retailing and merchandising leader. Under Sam’s leadership, Wal-Mart’s success grew rapidly, extending throughout America and into several international markets (Wal-Mart Retail Divisions, 2007). Achievement on such a colossal scale became possible through Sam’s vision, which he nurtured to realization using effective leadership and management practices. Wal-Mart’s ongoing commitment to valuing people throughout every facet of its leadership, management and culture has contributed to the achievement of Sam Walton’s vision, changing the landscape of discount retailing in America.

Differentiating between leadership and management, this paper will discuss the roles and responsibilities of organizational management and leadership in relation to the creation and maintenance of a healthy organizational culture, exploring the influence of these roles on the organizational culture of Wal-Mart. It will also illustrate how the four functions of management support the creation and maintenance of Wal-Mart’s renowned organizational culture, and recommend strategies that organizational managers and leaders may use to create and maintain a healthy organizational culture.

Effective leadership stimulates associates to perform to lofty standards, in so doing, promoting outstanding achievement. Hence, leadership is an integral part of effective management, which Bateman and Snell (2007) define as “[t]he process of working with people and resources to accomplish organizational goals” (p. 6), through the use of four independent, yet intertwined essential functions, which include planning, organizing, leading and controlling. The vision of an effective leader, regardless of how inspiring or motivational however, is unlikely to come to fruition if unaccompanied by a suitable plan, effective organization of resources, and appropriate control measures to ensure progress remains on track (Bateman & Snell). Similarly, management without effective leadership may not gain the commitment of workers needed to achieve the full potential of which the organization might otherwise be capable. Although many managers achieve organizational goals despite possessing less than exemplary leadership skills, the ability to lead effectively sets apart exceptional managers from the rest (Bateman and Snell, 2007).

Many mistakenly assume that effective managers must, by definition, be effective leaders. This is not the case. According to Bateman and Snell (2007), while management deals with necessary, daily organizational details, including planning, budgeting, staffing with appropriately skilled personnel, and monitoring results, “true leadership includes effectively orchestrating important change” (p. 396). The role and responsibility of leadership is to create and communicate its vision, establishing the direction in which the organization is to go, extending beyond mere management functions, to build an organizational culture infused with inspiration among associates to achieve the vision. “Great leaders keep people focused on moving the organization toward its ideal future, motivating them to overcome whatever obstacles lie in the way” (Bateman and Snell, 2007, p. 396).

Simply stated, a set of fundamental values and beliefs about an organization, its practices and objectives, shared among its members, represents the culture of the organization (Bateman and Snell, 2007). This culture serves to guide consistently associates’ behavior in the workplace. Healthy organization cultures in which associates trust in the practices, priorities and goals of the organization, support...
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