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Advice for My Students
from Mike Duke

While serving as President and CEO of Walmart, Inc., as well as after he retired, Michael T. “Mike” Duke met with my leadership class every time I offered it. Mentioned frequently, he may well be the most-quoted guest leader in Why It Matters: Reflections on Practical Leadership. Beyond his quotes in the book, Mike provided powerful advice for my students, including the following.

• “It’s more fun creating success as a team than achieving it
on your own.”
• “Leadership should start with a foundation of trust and integrity; have fun, relax, and keep variety in your life; and be completely involved in whatever you do, at work and with your family.”
• “You can’t put a value on trust. It’s priceless.”
• “Instead of giving orders, ask questions.”
• “Adopt the approach used by Hall of Fame collegiate basketball coach, John Wooden: instead of focusing on winning, focus on performing each play to perfection.”
• “The most effective leaders are the ones who have an understanding of their priorities.”
• “Being on time is important.”
• “Use 20-second celebrations.”
• “Have one objective at a time.”
• “Business must have a purpose beyond profit.”
• “Limit meetings to 30 minutes.”
• “Put people first.”
• “Sometimes you have to stop the bus and let someone off the bus.”
• “Focus on the job you have, not the job you want.”
• “People who worry about the next job, don’t get the next job.”
• “I never saw past my boss’s job.”
• “I put all of my energy into doing my current job the best I could.”
• “Walk the walk and talk the talk.”
• “Evaluate effectiveness, not the number of hours worked.”
• “Ask your direct reports, ‘What’s holding us back?’”
• “It’s important to remember an organization is made up of imperfect people from the top to the bottom.”
• “Leaders look for ways to solve problems; others look for whom to blame for the problems.”
• “A leader needs to be humble and confident at the same time.”
• “It is a leader’s duty to exceed what is legal and do what is right.”
• “No one is perfect.”
• “Know your strengths and leverage them.”
• “The most effective leaders are the ones who have an understanding of their priorities.”
• “Use your strength first, then focus on your weakness.”
• “You can tell the quality of a person, not by statements made, but by questions asked.”
• “Be known for being transparent and trustworthy.”
• “Take ownership of a problems and avoid becoming a victim.”
• “Leaders should be curious.”
• “Answer the question, ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’”

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