At Babson College, Arthur Blank’s Values-Based Leadership Takes Center Stage

Values-based leadership is critical to the success of Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98.

As co-founder of The Home Depot, chairman of the Blank Family of Businesses, philanthropist, and now best-selling author, Blank leads with his six core values: Put People First, Listen and Respond, Include Everyone, Innovate Continuously, Lead by Example, and Give Back to Others.

At the heart of those values: people.

“There’s no dollar signs attached to any of these values,” Blank says. “They all have to do with human behavior, human relationships, and how we serve our business, our customers.”

Those values are the foundation for his Blank Family of Businesses, the founding principles of The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and were the focal point for a day of conversation with the Babson College community.

“Mr. Blank is an icon of business and entrepreneurship. He is one of Babson’s most esteemed graduates and greatest champions,” said President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD. “We are working together to advance and amplify values-based leadership on a global scale.”

An audience of 1,200 viewers from 31 states and 21 countries tuned in live to hear Blank discuss his recent best-seller, Good Company, and the application of values-based, human-centric leadership at Babson, in Blank’s businesses, and beyond. The book now is being integrated into the learner experience in and out of the Babson classroom.

“Every single industry must be re-engineered and rebuilt to survive in our new global climate,” said Donna Levin, CEO of The Blank School at Babson College. “The Blank School will educate and empower entrepreneurial leaders with an elevated set of skills and enhanced mindset to lead that change. This is Babson and The Blank School’s moment to make a global impact in the world. And, it’s a time when the world needs it the most.”

A Commitment to Values

The day began with a fireside chat between Blank and Spinelli. In the afternoon, Blank joined leaders of his family of businesses—Dick Sullivan, president and CEO, PGA TOUR Superstore; Steve Cannon, CEO, AMB Sports & Entertainment; Darren Eales, president, Atlanta United FC; and Tim Goodly, chief human resources officer, AMB Sports & Entertainment—for a conversation about how entrepreneurial leaders can uphold values that are for the company, the customer, and the community. Each participant followed Babson’s Return to Campus protocols, including getting tested in advance, wearing masks, and maintaining appropriate physical distance throughout the day.

“These are the values that we want to drive our actions with our students, with our staff, with faculty, with alumni, with the world. And, so you created for us a great case study to follow as we launch The Blank School,” said Scott Taylor, the inaugural Arthur M. Blank Endowed Chair for Values-Based Leadership.

The core values were built on—and repeatedly tested and proven through—real-life experiences. Blank and the leaders of his businesses shared story after story about how those core values created value for customers, for associates, and ultimately for the companies themselves. Blank shared countless examples from The Home Depot, the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, his West Creek ranches, and more.

“Each of these core values, if you stay static, will regress. If you stop innovating, you’re moving backward,” shared Cannon. “What I love about the values is that every single word is a verb. Values that aren’t put into action don’t really help anybody.”

Students played an integral role in the day. Blank met with members of the inaugural class of The Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurial Leadership Scholars over lunch. Students who received the four-year, full-tuition scholarship were selected not only for their outstanding academic achievement, but also for their potential as entrepreneurial leaders and how they embody Blank’s values.

“Young people represent a third of the population of the United States, and the world for that matter, but they represent 100% of our future,” Blank said.

Babson students across the learning continuum, he said, are the future of values-based entrepreneurial leadership.

“My experience with Babson students is that their minds are primed in that way. They’re entrepreneurial. They’re creative. They want to think outside the box. They want to find solutions,” he said.

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