A Great Leader: Sam Walton’s Legacy

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” -Sam Walton


Before there were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google, there was Sam Walton, the most personable and humbled founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Walton believed in inspiring and motivating members of his organization in a way that increased productivity and company ownership. He became successful and most memorable when he publicized his self-proclaimed ten commandments for his brands. They were as follows:


  1.  Commit to your business.
  2. Share your profits with your associates and treat them like your partners.
  3. Energize your colleagues.
  4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.
  5. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.
  6. Celebrate your success.
  7. Listen to everyone in your company.
  8. Exceed your customers’ expectations.
  9. Control your expenses better than your competition.
  10. Blaze your own path.


Defining effective leadership has been a continuous work in progress that has ultimately resulted in various theories and approaches in the realm of leadership. Of the various theories consists of the Skills Approach and the Transformational Leadership Theory, both of which can be argued to have been possessed by the late great Sam Walton.


Author Peter G. Northouse (2016) describes the Skills Approach as a focus on specific “skills and abilities that can be learned and developed” (p.43, 2016). Under the skills approach realm are various studies that have been conducted by the likes of Robert Katz and Mumford and colleagues. Turning the focus primarily on Robert Katz, his Three Skill Model consists of components deemed necessary for effective leaders. These components are: technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills. Northouse writes, “It is important for leaders to have all three skills; depending on where they are in the management structure…” (p.46, 2016).  

Sam Walton was known for his tremendous level of human skills in which strengthened his leadership abilities to turn his small rural store idea, into a billion dollar retail brand.


Another leadership theory that helps explains Sam Walton’s success is called the transformational leadership theory. Northouse defines this theory as, “a process that changes and transforms people…it is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals” (p.161, 2016). There are four essential factors of the transformational leadership theory that include:

  1. Idealized Influence
  2. Inspirational Motivation
  3. Intellectual Stimulation
  4. Individualized Consideration


Each of these factors combined are thought to provide modern leaders with a model to help connect leaders with their followers in a way that promotes teamwork, motivation, ownership within an organization. Sam Walton understood these points well before this theory was even in existence. Walton thrived on building a brand that showed appreciation to his associates. He saw the performance results, and the susceptibility of his associates were to new changes, and he wanted to maintain that efficiency. Ultimately, Sam Walton’s leadership legacy can still be seen today within his companies.


Northouse, P. G. (2016) Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Sam Walton. (2016). Retrieved September 25, 2016, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197560

One Comment

  1. Thomas Hendry Drake September 27, 2016 at 9:07 AM #

    Nice job Mercedes! The story of Sam Walton is an amazing one and I enjoyed your article on him. I always marveled at how well Wal Mart has done and now I know why! Thanks! Tom

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