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Successful leader is in partnership with God, former executive says

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A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler

Cal Turner, the former president of Dollar General retail stores, addresses the 9th National Gathering of United Methodist Men.
July 21, 2005

By Daniel R. Gangler*

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (UMNS)—The first step toward achieving faithful leadership involves digging down deeply within yourself and dealing with your own shadows, according to the former head of a national retail chain.

Cal Turner Jr., retired president of the nationwide Dollar General chain, told more than 300 United Methodist men that a successful leader knows chaos is eliminated when the leader realizes “people need to be empowered and not restricted. Everyone wants to be part of something.”

Turner, a United Methodist from Nashville, Tenn., shared his remarks at the annual John Wesley Fellow Dinner July 16 during the 9th National Gathering of United Methodist Men at Purdue University.

He told the assembly successful leaders have shadows or misconceptions to overcome. Those misconceptions include:

  • Who I am depends on what I do;
  • Life is a battleground and the universe is hostile;
  • I can overcome natural chaos.

The shadows are overcome when one is in partnership with God, just as John Wesley was a partner with God, he said.

The partnership is realized, Turner added, when one learns that “it’s not about me. It’s about God and my partnership with God. I constantly affirm I’m a child of God.”

He told the men that although life may sometimes be a battleground, “there is a power of God to do good even in the worst of life’s circumstances.”

Turner, reared in the Scottsville (Ky.) Methodist Church, vividly recalled being 11 when he realized that Jesus Christ died for everyone, including himself.

Later, he was told by a pastor not to seek ordained ministry. So he followed in the footsteps of his father. “I didn’t want to get into the family business, but I had to be the boss’ son. That’s who I was.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler

Paul Saik performs during the 9th National Gathering of United Methodist Men.
It wasn’t easy taking over the family business and overcoming negative issues, but, he said, the business became his ministry.

“Leading is difficult,” Turner explained. To be a good leader, “get so immersed in something that failure is not an option. God will help you make it? We underestimate the power of God. We need to be his partner every day.”

Turner believes his business succeeded because good people helped other good people. Jesus had the opportunity to serve God when Jesus served among the people, he said.

His presentation began by quoting John Wesley. “Nothing that I have is mine. My blessings come in full measure from God.” He said Wesley didn’t fear that the people called Methodist would die as a movement, but that Methodism would become a dead sect of a former religion without the power both of doctrine and discipline.

“How are the Methodists doing?” Turner asked. “Are we the sect without power and only form?”

The church today has been diminished by its leaders in character formation, private and public morality, and failure to address the issues of poverty, literacy, violence and drugs, he said. “I’m concerned about God-centered leadership that John Wesley was talking about.”

Near the end of his address, Turner apologized for his strong words about the church’s leadership, but noted that “We can witness for Christ today. We can give our substance. In our generation, let us give God all our love and faithful service? May the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God empower you and me to respond with powership, stewardship and leadership. Being God’s partner is the greatest honor of all.”

*Gangler is director of communications for the Indiana Area of the United Methodist Church.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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