The Direct Approach
Leading others with candor tempered by compassion
By Grady Rosier
Former President and CEO
McLane Company, Inc.
I learned quite a bit about being a leader in my 36-year-long career with McLane Company, Inc. before retiring as president and CEO in August 2020. It helped that that I worked under incredible leaders in their own right—Drayton McLane, Jr., Sam Walton and Warren Buffett, just to name a few. They taught me a great deal about how to do my job, but even more about leading others with strong values, a family-like culture and a clear direction.
Never Compromise on Values
Honesty, integrity and high Christian principles. In my time at McLane Company, we tried to do everything with these values in mind. It did not matter the product, company or situation and it showed. Customers knew what to expect when dealing with us because we were upfront about the values and principles we operated on.
That builds trust as well and that trust is important. People want to work with people or companies they can depend on. In my mind, you need trust with customers, employees, companies and the communities you work in. Standing by your values is best way to build those relationships.
Build a Family Culture
As CEO of McLane Company, I woke up every day trying to deserve my job. I was aware that every decision I made affected our teammate’s lives, as well as their families at home. Drayton McLane would tell you when he got ready and went into work, he never left home. McLane Company was so ingrained in him that he viewed it as home. He would even refer to his secretary as Aunt Doris or myself as Uncle Grady and he meant it. We were family.
Leaders and teammates—what we at McLane Company called our employees—will spend a lot of time together. A leader must learn to value those around him and treat them with the same respect and kindness he would his own household. It is important to a company’s morale that everyone feels appreciated, supported and integral to the business.
Be a Direct Leader
A leader should be direct and clear with their intentions. Personally, I always do exactly what I say I am going to do and I expect the same from others. If I say I am going to help you, I am going to help you. But if I say I am going to hurt you, I am going to hurt you. The people you are working with should not have to guess what you are thinking, tell them. This is a significant characteristic to possess when managing others.
Autonomy is an important aspect in any role but it is often earned, not given. I have been known to micromanage from time to time, but it is the mindset that I am teaching—leading—others to do their best possible job. As time goes by, the reins are loosened and employees begin to grow within their newfound independence. This is better for not just the employee, but the team as a whole, especially a leader.
Drayton McLane, Warren Buffett and Walmart leaders all left me alone to run the business my way. They did that because they saw me as family. They viewed me as family due to the shared values we held. It is how I approached my 25 years as president and CEO of McLane Company and how I continue to handle my life. Great leaders are the ones who take you someplace you would not go by yourself!