Growing 7-Eleven through ‘servant leadership’

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By Rachel P. Farrell

Serving others has a business benefit: growth.

Just ask Joe DePinto ’99, who has spent the last 10 years practicing the principles of “servant leadership” while sitting at the helm of 7-Eleven. During DePinto’s tenure as president and CEO, the convenience-store chain has grown from 27,000 to 57,000 stores, with sales doubling to $8 billion worldwide.

Today, the company is expanding so quickly that it opens a new store every three hours.

“Servant leadership is what I believe has enabled my career,” said DePinto, addressing a crowd of more than 1,400 in Cahn Auditorium on Nov. 10. DePinto joined Kellogg Dean Sally Blount ’92 and Silicon Valley Connect Managing Director Ellen Levy in kicking off the school’s inaugural Kellogg on Growth Forum, which brought together business leaders and members of the Kellogg community to explore methods of driving growth at the enterprise, macroeconomic and personal level.

Putting others first

DePinto defines servant leaders as those who are “ambitious for their organizations and other individuals ahead of themselves.” These leaders “have a paradoxical mix of personal humility and strong professional will.

“It seems very simple, very intuitive,” he said. “But it’s very hard, in practice. Think about it: As humans, we’re hard-wired to think about ourselves and our own selfish needs. That’s why servant leaders are so special and rare.”

Read more about DePinto’s speech.
View social media highlights from the event.
See pictures from the forum.

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