Sam Walton One of Us's All Time Great Leaders

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Sam Walton, One of US’s All Time Great Leaders

Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918 to Thomas and Nancy Walton on a farm in Oklahoma. In 1923, after realizing the farm would no longer be able to support the family, Thomas Walton decided to go back to his previous profession of appraising farm loans and relocated the family to Missouri. Due to the nature of Thomas Walton’s profession the family was continuously moving. The constant moving allowed Sam Wlaton, the eldest son to become a survivor and gain a great passion for learning and adapting that ultimately facilitated the path towards becoming one of the richest and most successful leaders in the United States.

Throughout his life, Sam Walton exhibited qualities that could be categorized under the trait approach theory. The trait approach theory states that leaders are individuals who are always out front and leading the way in the society and are gifted people who can do extraordinary things by possessing the following traits: intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity and sociability (Northouse, p.19, 25). It is quiet apparent to see through Sam Walton’s accomplishment that he possessed all of these traits. Since Sam Walton was a young boy, he had what it took to get a head, get things done and make money. During the depression at an early age of seven Sam Walton helped to provide for his family by milking the cows and delivering magazines. At the age of 13, Sam Walton had become the youngest boy in the state of Missouri to become an Eagle Scout. Although, Sam Walton was not seen as one of the smartest kids in his class, his dedication and hard work eventually placed him in the ranks of the honor students. Sam Walton went to Hickman High School in Columbia, where he played basketball and lead the football team to the state title in 1935 as the starting quarterback. Sam Walton showed leadership potential early on by serving as Vice-President of his junior class and the President of his senior class. Unlike the other kids, besides school, Sam Walton had other responsibilities. He continued to work in order to help support his family. By the the time he graduated high school, he was voted the ‘most versatile boy’ in his class. Sam Walton got his BA in Economics from the University of Missouri, all the while working by waiting tables, serving as a life guard and delivering newspapers. After graduating in 1940, Sam Walton entered his first retail job at JC Penny’s in Des Moines, Iowa as a management trainee making $75 a month. In 1942, Sam Walton joined the Army for World War II, where he became the captain of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps. While waiting to be inducted into the military, Sam Walton met his future wife to be, Helen Robson in 1945. Robson’s father was a successful banker and rancher who helped Sam Walton in starting his first retail business. Mr. Robson lent Walton $20,000. With the help of his father-in-law, Sam Walton was able to open his first Butler Brothers franchise as a variety store that became one of the highest sales and profit stores in the six-state region. According to Northouse, when he states in his book, Leadership Theory and Practice, “although it is good to be bright, the research indicates that a leader’s intellectual ability should not differ too much from that of the subordinates” (Northouse, P.20). Sam Walton had the ability to relate, work and learn from his employees, as well as his competitors (Huey, P.22, 23). Walton learned from just about every person he came in contact with. He said, “Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea” (Huey, P. 211). To show his sociability, according to Lee Scott the former CEO of Wal-Mart, Walton would show up in the drivers’ break room at 4 AM with donuts and just sit there and talk to them for hours. Walton was amazed at how many ideas they always had in fine tuning the system. He would drill them...
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