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Sam Walton the Transformational Leader

Sam Walton the Transformational Leader

Transformational leadership involves an exceptional form of influence that moves followers to accomplish more than what is usually expected of them (Northouse, 2012). One example of a leader who utilized transformational leadership is Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart (Kendrick, 2011). Sam graduated with a degree in economics and built an empire that most observers remark is as predatory in its business practices as its founder’s less-publicized behaviors (Boje & Rosile, 2008). Wal-Mart changed the very ecosystem and rhythm of the supermarket business, often with devastating consequences for those who couldn’t adjust (Fishman, 2006).

One reason that Wal-Mart excelled is because of Sam’s influence on employee’s to treat customers’ first and also for promoting change. Sam Walton in 1988 said “the customer can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, and he can do it simply by spending his money somewhere else” (Boje & Rosile, 2008). Sam visited employees at different store locations to ensure customer priority. He regularly traveled across the country to visit stores and personally meet with associates expressing his appreciation for what they did for the company (Kendrick, 2011). Sam passed away in 1992 (Boje & Rosile, 2008). In the 2004 annual report, Rob Walton the Chairman of the Board made specific reference to deceased CEO Samuel Walton’s mission and ‘spirit’ being ‘alive’ at Wal-Mart: My father, Sam Walton, said: ‘I’ve made it my own personal mission to ensure that constant change is a vital part of the Wal-Mart culture itself,’ and that spirit is alive and well at Wal-Mart today (Boje & Rosile, 2008). Sam Walton transformed the retail marketplace due to his outstanding transformational leadership style and because of that he will be remembered.


Boje, D., & Rosile, G. (2008). Specters of Wal-Mart: a critical discourse analysis of stories of Sam Walton’s ghost. Critical Discourse Studies, 5(2), 153-179. doi: 10.1080/17405900801990116

Fishman, C. (2006). The Wal-Mart effect and a decent society: who knew shopping was so important. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(3), 6-25. doi: 10.5465/AMP.2006.21903477

Kendrick, J. (2011). Transformational leadership changing individuals & social systems. Professional Safety, 56(11), 14-14.

Northouse, P. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. (6 ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publishing.