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AT&T 28 Days - Rosalind Brewer

President/CEO, Sam's Club


Read Rosalind Brewer's biography and you will see Wharton, Stanford, the University of Chicago and Spelman listed. These are the institutions that helped shape Brewer into who she is today--the top executive at Sam's Club, overseeing 110,000 associates and 649 stores and bringing in billions in revenue each year. But talk to her for a moment and you will find that for Brewer being accomplished means more than degrees and positive year-over-year numbers. Taking an active role in the betterment of her community is equally satisfying.

Q: How do you mobilize your network to stay connected?

A: I try to really spread out and venture into industries not directly retail, but that impact what's happening around the world. I will have my PR firm pull together the foremost thinkers on different topics ... we just get together and have these dinners. I'll do them regionally ... West Coast, the Northeast, the Southeast. We will bring together not only corporate executives, but they'll be folks from the community, from think tanks. A lot of times, not a lot of us know each other. I started this when I first took over the Sam's job so that I can get an understanding of what else is happening around the world. It's become my network.


The other way I stay connected is through the way I like to mentor people. I have two luncheons per month, roughly, where my assistant just signs people up. It could be the security in the building, the chefs in the cafeteria. It's a way for me to get to know everybody and stay on the pulse of things.  We bring in sandwiches, and for an hour they get to sit and we talk. They'll tell you good things and bad things. You serve people food and they will tell you everything.


Q: What is the one book everyone should read and why?

A: I think they should read something spiritual. I'm a huge Joel Osteen fan. I don't really read his books, but I do listen. The chance to sit down and read a book ... I keep saying, "One day." I'm not going to be starved for knowledge, though. I refuse to be starved for knowledge, so I try to get it anyway that I can. Sometimes it's more audio-media kinds of formats versus reading.


Q: Which qualities are necessary to be an inspiring leader?

A: What's most inspiring is when you meet someone who really knows and understands themselves. I think that's really uplifting. It's amazing to me the number of people who deal with self-perception issues because they haven't gotten grounded in terms of who they are. The most inspiration I get from someone is how well they're connected to their self. Their absolute self. Some people call that authenticity. I'd take that maybe to another level and say, "Yes, you can be authentic, but I think you've also got to be grounded in who you are."


Cathy Hughes from Radio One is absolutely attached to who she is, extremely grounded, and brilliant, and shares information, --shares it so unencumbered. She gives you the raw feedback, and she doesn't hold back. She just commands natural attention. When Cathy opens her mouth, the room's silent. She's just has that power because she's very self-aware. She's very grounded in who she is; she makes no pretense about what she knows and doesn't know. She's very convicted in terms of what she does do well and what she knows well. There's a lot to be said about that. It's a rare case to find people like that.


Q: The first step to being a part of the solution is …

A: Owning the problem. By that, I mean no denial. Accept the ugly sides of issues and own it. See it through to completion and deliver upon what you say you're going to do. 


Q: What is your personal manifesto?

A:  Never stop learning!


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