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Leading with Humility: Lessons from Retail Supply Chain Icon Chris Sultemeier

Former Walmart EVP of Logistics, Chris Sultemeier joined the Matt Waller podcast to discuss his journey in the supply chain industry

A Matt Waller Podcast episode on 'Leading with Humility: Lessons from Retail Supply Chain Icon Chris Sultemeier'

Table of Contents

Chris Sultemeier recently sat down for an insightful interview on The Matt Waller Podcast. With nearly 30 years of experience leading supply chain and logistics at retail giant Walmart, Chris has a wealth of wisdom to share. A few key themes around leadership and innovation emerged from the conversation.

Humility and Teamwork

Despite his many high-level roles, including EVP of Logistics, Chris maintains a humble, team-focused approach to leadership. He believes strongly in ‘servant leadership’ – empowering others so they can accomplish more than they thought possible. As Chris puts it, “You are only as good as the team you’re leading.” He took the greatest joy in “seeing a team accomplish more than they ever thought they could.”

Chris stresses that building trust is the foundation of any relationship. Team members must know you truly care about them as individuals, not just cogs in a machine. With trust and care in place, Chris found team members would go to incredible lengths for shared success.

Innovation Through Testing

Chris credits Walmart’s continued innovation, even as a huge company, to relentless testing and trying of new concepts. He reminisces about the constant small tests underway during Sam Walton’s leadership. This experimental approach never ceased even as Walmart grew.

Chris provides several examples where Walmart piloted ideas he was originally skeptical of, including order online pickup in store and automation partnerships, which both proved tremendously successful. He learned not to dismiss ideas out of hand just because the approach was counterintuitive. Walmart’s test-and-learn culture kept them innovating.

Investing in the Future

Since retiring from Walmart, Chris serves on the boards of several tech startups aiming to transform retail and supply chain. He looks for companies with a compelling vision to solve real-world problems, such as inefficient ocean shipping contracts. Chris partners with founders who have the drive and humility to see their ideas through.

He is particularly excited about companies leveraging AI, machine learning and generative AI to structurate unstructured data. Chris believes these emerging technologies will unlock major advancements.

Throughout his long career, Chris Sultemeier has exemplified personal humility, commitment to teams, and the power of an experimental mindset. His wisdom provides lessons for leaders in any industry looking to innovate and build trusted teams for the long-term.

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