The former CEO of the largest company in America, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., told students integrity and trust with employees is the most important aspect of being a successful business leader.
Mike Duke, retired president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spoke to an audience of nearly 300 guests Tuesday afternoon as part of COBA’s Distinguished Speaker series. Duke spent the day on campus, visiting classes in the College of Business Administration, speaking at the luncheon and meeting with a group of faculty members.
At the luncheon Tuesday, Dr. Rick Lytle, dean of the college of business, conducted a question and answer session with Duke. Audience members were able to text in questions for Duke. He covered a variety of topics, from Wal-Mart business happenings, to his personal life and to advice on faith and business.
Duke spoke to the importance of integrity as a leader. He said a leader could be smart or organized, but if employees didn’t trust the leader, nothing else mattered. Duke said this belief is what Wal-Mart is built on as a company.
“Integrity is really the foundation of Wal-Mart,” Duke said. “It is one of the core beliefs of our company. We can average our sales, we can have good days and not so good days, and the average will be okay. But you can’t average integrity. Your lowest point becomes the measure of your integrity. When you slip that becomes the way people look at you and your integrity. All other strengths as a leader are built on that.”
An audience member submitted the question, “What can college students do to stay strong in their faith when entering their career?”
Duke said the transitional time from college to career is a time when many big decisions are made, but faith is crucial in those decisions.
“Often you can get caught up in all of the big decisions and put aside the foundation that has gotten you through your life,” Duke said. “It’s so important to start the day with prayer and to make big decisions in life on a rock of faith. Business doesn’t require you to compromise your faith.”
Wal-Mart is very competitive in prices, and several audience members were curious as to how the company goes about competing in the market and still operating on the foundation of integrity.
“You can play to win, but play by the rules,” Duke said. “At Wal-Mart, we are intense competitors, but we do it the right way. We compete with integrity and fairness.”
Duke closed by talking about the future of Wal-Mart. He said the rate of change is going faster all the time, driven by technology. Wal-Mart’s next challenge will be figuring out how technology is integrated into brick and mortar business.