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Cal Turner's message to leaders: 'love, listen, laugh'

Carole Robinson
Elizabeth Mefferd, Franklin Tomorrow Board Member; Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore; Cal Turner Jr., Retired Dollar General CEO; County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Mindy Tate, Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director

The ability to love, listen and laugh are the characteristics of a good leader, Retired Dollar General CEO Cal Turner Jr. told Tuesday morning’s gathering during 2014’s first Breakfast with the Mayors hosted by Franklin Tomorrow.

“We have the greatest need of leadership ever,” Turner said. “Good leaders separate the problem from the person so everybody can come together for the problem.”

During his lifetime, the 74-year old Turner said he discovered a good leader has good failures.

“Lessons come from failures. This is what you learn when you grow up in communities like Franklin or Scottsville [Kentucky]. You need others to help you with failures.”

Dollar General is the product of a “wonderful community” called Smithville, Ky, he told the audience of more than 400 in his own down-home, country-friendly style.

The values and mission of Dollar General are products of Turner’s family, church and the Smithville community, all of which he said provided him with the leadership skills to take company sales from $25 million to $7 billion.

“During the 10 years since I retired, it went to $17 billion in sales,” he added. “Look how well they’re doing without me.”

Successful leaders understand how to be good stewards of their success, consider every person equally and lead by serving others.

As a company, Dollar General surged forward when Turner adopted and lived by the words “Serve Others.”

The words led to improved customer service and provided a better life for all involved through partnerships with every employee.

“Encourage every employee by telling them to ‘be more than you perceive you are’,” he said.

According to Turner, a good leader is a good listener who believes in participatory management and the creativity of others.

A good leader doesn’t come with answers but listens and leads the individual to find the answer. It works in business and it works in life.

“I don’t love you, really, if I don’t listen,” he said.

Celebrate the uniqueness of each person.

Explore life with others.

Discover joy in the way you celebrate others and in the way you live your life and that will lead Franklin to becoming the greatest community, Turner said.

The ability to laugh is equally as important as loving and listening. The ability to laugh at one’s self is a blessing.

“I have so much material – you wouldn’t believe it,” Turner added.

Serving others is an ongoing process that provides an opportunity for partnerships and the opportunity for an entrepreneurial umpf, he said, adding a note to retirees and future retirees.

“When you have that kind of mission in life, you can serve it always – there are always opportunities – and forget about being politically correct. I’d rather be personally correct.”

The next Breakfast with the Mayors will be on April 29 at 7 a.m. at Rolling Hills Church.

Posted on: 1/30/2014


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