"It shows you can be both caring and performance-driven," Duke (IE 1972) told students in the Management of Financial Institutions class at Georgia Tech College of Management on April 1. "Success in business is totally about performing, but doing it in the right way – caring about people."
Caring and Performance were two of the key leadership characteristics that Duke emphasized to students. Trust was the third. "I cannot stress the importance of honesty enough," he said. "You can be the best public speaker, the best thinker. But if a leader isn't trusted, none of it matters."
Wal-Mart's Duke is one of the many "business rock stars" recruited by Professor of the Practice Gary Jones (IM 1971) to guest lecture in his Management of Financial Institutions course for undergraduates and MBA students.
Emphasizing interactive discussions on cases and timely market news, the course focuses on the role and operation of financial institutions and markets in national and international economies. Students learn about investment banks, securities firms, commercial banks, finance companies, mutual funds, insurance companies, asset and money management firms, hedge funds, private banks, private equity firms, and other financial institutions.
Jones, who is the retired managing director of Credit Suisse First Boston, says the series of guest speakers provide students with the opportunity to “learn at the knee of the master” in delving into all aspects of capital markets.
Duke advised students that some of the best moves he ever made in his career were horizontal ones when he "had opportunities to learn about completely different areas of the business."
Starting out, he decided to put his Georgia Tech degree in industrial engineering (what he calls "people engineering") to use in retail instead of manufacturing because of his love of people. He began his career at Richway Department Stores, then moved to May Department Stores, before joining Wal-Mart in 1995 to run its distribution centers. He rose to CEO a year and a half ago.
He stressed the point to students that the "corner office comes in due time, start with the customer. And spend an excessive amount of time on the front line even when you're in the corner office. Don't take a job that doesn't allow you to talk to customers."
In addition to Duke, other business leaders (including many Tech alumni) who have spoken to students in the Management of Financial Institutions course during the 2009-2010 academic year include: