My career has been an incredible journey that has taken me through a series of twists and turns—from a cashier to a store manager, from the supermarket to the corporate office, from Chicago to Boise. I have enjoyed every job I’ve been asked to do … and have appreciated the opportunities to advance my career and achieve my goals.
But, above all, I relish the fact that I have constantly been in a position to learn. Lifelong learning is my passion. I believe that there are many qualities of great leaders, but none as important as having an insatiable appetite for continuing to learn.
My message to the next generation of leaders is to always stay current with best practices, new studies, and research related to your profession. It’s critical to understand the trends, challenges, and issues that shape your industry … and it’s imperative to be knowledgeable about every aspect of your company so that you are able to help influence decisions and drive results.
Leaders in human resources and finance should understand merchandising and marketing; leaders in information technology should know about operations. Effective leaders always see the world without boundaries, reach out for new information, ask probing questions, resist the status quo, and insist on a better way.
I have been proud that I am a product of both “street smarts” and “book smarts.” While I earned an advanced degree, I spent hours throwing freight, writing labor schedules, and sorting produce. The combination of what I learned both at school and on the job is invaluable to me today. I am better equipped to make smarter decisions because of my broad perspective of people and business.
Additionally, much of my learning comes from other great leaders—people who invested their time showing me the ropes, sharing their experiences, and letting me learn from my own mistakes. As a tribute to them, I constantly look for opportunities to coach and mentor new leaders … giving back to others who will make a difference.
One of my favorite quotes is from Abigail Adams: “Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” Her words are from 1780 … but they still strike a chord with me today. Learning is a privilege, and great leaders never lose sight of that.
My hope for tomorrow’s leaders is that they enjoy a passion for learning that will take them to even greater heights.