10 Tips for Leaders from Joe Scarlett, Retired CEO of Tractor Supply

April 2, 2024 / Share:

Joe says, “When you rub the shoulders of large CEOs of organizations, you can benchmark yourself.”

As retired CEO of Tractor Supply, Joe is quite the benchmark himself! He changed the trajectory of Tractor Supply, brought the company to Nashville, and his leadership has largely made the brand what it is today. (Hear Joe’s story in the video below).

We are lucky enough to have Joe in our McWhorter Circle and as a valued member of our community. He embodies Stuart McWhorter’s four principles, and has several of his own pearls of wisom to share.

In Joe’s own words, here’s his top 10 tips on leadership:

1) Never compromise your principles.

Always do the right thing no matter what, all the time.

2) Surround yourself with great people.

The most important decisions you will make in business are the selection of people you surround yourself with (and the biggest challenges in business are always people challenges). We all will make bad decisions. When you do — do something about it. And wherever you see promising people, help them get ahead. They will not forget you for it!

3) Set clear direction.

People who work for you should never be confused. Make sure everyone knows where you’re going, and has input into it too! When you communicate the vision for the future of your company, its amazing how people can help you get there. And if there is a difference of opinion, talk it out.

4) Delegate, delegate, delegate!

Lift yourself out of the details and think and look into the distance. When you’re doing the work, you don’t have time to look over the hill and around the corner. I can say proudly, when it comes to decision making, I made very few decisions as a CEO. I made high level personnel decisions with the input of my team, strategic decisions with the input of my team, and I like to figure out where we’re going to lunch. Push the decision making down to where it belongs.

5) Build a teamwork environment.

Our job as leaders is to support and listen, and do whatever we can to make our teams successful. Celebrate every success. The simplest way to motivate people in work is to pat people on the back. Building teamwork is a continual process and you have to think about it all the time.

6) Develop your knowledge base.

Keep learning all the time. Network, make coldcalls, read (see Joe’s book list). If you’re not sure what to do, ask your boss or someone around you. If you work for me, I always say “What is your learning agenda?” Everybody needs to be learning.

7) Develop your communication skills.

The further you move up the ladder, the more important communication is. Take every opportunity you have to speak in front of a group. Like any other skill in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Develop your writing skills. If you need help, get a coach — I have two! Speaking in public, listening, writing all become tremendously important in a leadership role.

CLICK HERE to see Joe’s column for Nashville Business Journal.

8) Your image counts.

You may disagree, but what you look like counts. If you dress like a slob, people think you’re a slob. Look the part. And if you stick your hand out, smile and shake hands, that’s a plus for you! Put a personal message on your voicemail – sell yourself and do something that shows your personality. Change your greeting at least once a month.

9) Take time to really think.

Two, maybe three times a year, take a notepad and go somewhere without your phone. Close your eyes and think 1) How am I doing in my job? What do I need to do differently? What have I not thought about? What’s coming up? 2) Think about your career. Am I where I want to be? Do I want to go further? What are my thoughts for getting there? What is the next step? Do I want to take a next step? Do I have a plan? 3) Think about all the things with your life, personally.

You may change a few things about your life for the better.

10) Live long and be healthy.

Keep your body active. Keep your blood flowing. If you’re gonna sit back on the couch and eat potato chips, you ain’t gonna be around too long.

Joe’s 10 tips start at 1:02:45.

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