Saks CEO Shares His Leadership Approach

I read an interesting interview with Stephen Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks, who discussed his approach to management. Here’s an excerpt:

I have a very simple model to run a company. It starts with leadership at the top, which drives a culture. Culture drives innovation and whatever else you’re trying to drive within a company — innovation, execution, whatever it’s going to be. And that then drives results.

My take: Sadove’s approach is spot-on; and can be simplified to:

Leadership => Culture => Operational effectiveness => Business results

Sadove seems to understand what many executives lost sight of over the past decade, which is well stated by Jack Welch: “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy.” Rather than focusing on profits, he recognizes that profits are the outcome of a chain of events that starts with good leadership.

Sadove’s comments also line up nicely with several of the 6 New Management Imperatives that I outlined last year:

  1. Invest in culture as a corporate asset
  2. Make listening an enterprisewide skill
  3. Turn innovation into a continuous process
  4. Provide a clear and compelling purpose
  5. Extend and enhance the digital fabric
  6. Practice good social citizenship

The bottom line: Execs that want results need to focus more on people

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

6 Responses to Saks CEO Shares His Leadership Approach

  1. Shub says:

    Reading the quote, am reminded of Managing in the Next Society. “Establishing a new corporate persona calls for a change in the corporation’s values. And that may well be the most important task for top management.”

  2. When a business CEO invests in good culture and good social characteristics, they will succeed. These are the most essential part of leadership. Interact with the people from any level – whether they are higher or lower level from you.

  3. I think this is fantastic.

    I propose Sadove and other execs take this one step further and invest in the entire organizational environment. Leaders need to consciously shape and cultivate their organizations examining 7 key elements that determine the state of your corporate environment. They are foundation, communication, culture, community, transparency, awareness and values.

    I have drafted a Corporate Diagnostic Chart ( as a tool to help leaders evaluate the health of their corporate environment. It provides the typical problems with each element as well as what to do to address the problems and why it works.

    Thanks for sharing Bruce.

  4. jim Shamlin says:

    The “culture” of an organization is too often disregarded as incidental and idealistic, and a good many companies pay lip-service to it because it’s good for p.r., but dismiss it as hogwash internally.

    The CEO and/or the media handlers talk a good game, but that’s superficial. If you really want a sense of a corporation’s culture, ask a mid-level manager what his performance objectives are, and you can sense what the real culture of the organization is, regardless of the message from the top happens to be.

    Or better still, just do business with the company: assess the quality of the product, and the service you receive from the front-line employees. That’s where customers get a feel for the organization’s culture – and it’s rare that the culture preached at the top has “soaked through” to the bottom layer.

    But in those rare cases when it has … when a company is permeated, top-to-bottom with a culture that recognizes the importance of customer experience … what you have is a gem. And these are the companies that customers love, and recommend, and stay with for the long run.

  5. Shyam Kumar says:

    @Jim – Spot on!
    A superior service culture also inspires employees to provide great service to each other – boosting morale, attracting and retaining top talent.
    Watch this video from customer service speaker Ron Kaufman on how to build and sustain a superior service culture –

  6. Pingback: Improve “Purposeful Leadership” In 2011 « Customer Experience Matters

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