Servant leadership is a long-term commitment says Tractor Supply Co’s Wright
By Kim Chaudoin on 8/23/2012
Being a servant leader isn’t always easy according to Jim Wright, chairman and chief executive officer for Tractor Supply Company (TSC).
Wright told a crowd of nearly 800 at the Aug. 22 Nashville Business Breakfast in Allen Arena that servant leadership is “a point of view and practice” that has helped TSC grow into the largest operator of retail farm stores in the United States. It operates more than 1,100 stores in 44 states—employing over 16,000 people — and is ranked among Fortune’s 100 fastest-growing companies.
“Servant leadership is not a short-term commitment. It takes time to affect a company and everyone it touches,” said Wright.
Wright said that TSC’s corporate culture of values, ethics, trust, risk taking, collaboration, hard work and passion positively impacts the loyalty of team members, customers, vendors and shareholders. He said he uses an inverted pyramid-style of leadership model.
“With this model, the CEO is at the bottom of that pyramid. Our team members are at the top of the pyramid,” he said. “It is important to serve those who serve our customers. When we serve them, they will serve our customers well. And, we want to make our customers feel more appreciated and valued than they do anywhere else.”
Good leaders should be people of humility and tenacious resolve who have a servant’s heart and are inspiring to those around them, said Wright. They should also be willing to work harder and carry more weight than anyone else in their organization.
“There are times when it is the responsibility of a CEO to strap the organization on his or her back and take it where it needs to go,” he said.
Wright joined TSC as president and chief operating officer in November 2000. In 2004 he was named CEO and was appointed chairman in 2007.
Before moving to Nashville, Wright was president and CEO of a 150-store chain of tire stores headquartered in West Palm Beach, Fla. A career retailer, Wright has held executive positions with Western Auto Supply Company in Kansas City, Mo., and K-Mart Corporation in Troy, Mich.
Wright served as a board member and lead director of Spartan Stores, a NASDAQ-traded $2.8 billion food distribution and retailing company, from 2002 until 2011. He currently serves on the boards of H&R Block and the National Retail Federation. He has also served as chairman of Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association a 1,700-member trade association.
The Nashville Business Breakfast is a quarterly series highlighting a business leader with local economic impact presented by Lipscomb University and the Nashville Business Journal.
Recent speakers include Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans head coach; Gov. Bill Haslam; Colin Reed, CEO and president of Gaylord Entertainment; Michael Woodhouse, chairman, president and CEO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store; Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of Market Center Management Company (MCMC), developing the Medical Trade Center in Nashville; Carlos Tavares, chairman, Nissan Motor Company's Management Committee; Mark Emkes, CEO of Bridgestone Americas; and Kix Brooks, country music artist and former chairman of the Country Music Association.