Leadership Mentor Interview

Leadership Mentor Interview





Executive summary

The interviewed mentor is Wilson-Thompson Kathleen. Currently she is the global director in human resource department at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. she has worked in the position since 2013 where she continues to serve. Since 2009 she has been a member of board of directors at Vulcan Materials Company. From 1992 to 2009, she worked as the senior vice president of global human resources at Kellogg Company. She also served as Vice President and Staff Counsel of Litigation and Banking Law in Michigan National Corporation. She is such an experienced leader who seeks to ensure that organizations realize the set goals while at the same time promoting employee development. This report seeks to explain how the leaders views general leadership, organizational culture, and strategic thinking.

The Leader’s General View of Leadership

Leadership plays a significant role in quality improvement. It helps in promoting creativity in solutions and in the realization of performance excellence for desired output. Through leadership, leaders are able to influence employees to move towards the attainment of set goals. Organizational leaders have various roles to play to lead an organization in the right direction. First, leaders have a role of establishing a clear vision, communicating to all stakeholders, and ensure the vision is accomplished. The other role is giving motivation. According to Kaufman (2014), leaders have to influence others towards acting in a desirable way. According to the interview, my mentor believes that leaders have a role to promote employee motivation associated with better performance seen in desired results. She argues that giving credit where is due serves as a source of motivation for the employees. The motivation ensures that employees act in a desired manner (Kaufman, 2014).

When it comes to leading change, leaders play an important role. They act as navigators with a focus on providing direction. Leaders determine the success of the organizational change process.  They require effective leadership skills for effective changes (SHRM, 2018). According to my mentor, empowering employees is one way to lead change effectively. The mentor says that being committed to organizational values is the best leadership way. It serves as a reference point to others associated with improved performance. Leaders have a role of cultivating leadership. This involves promoting confidence and inspiration in employees to ensure that they can lead themselves. This can be done by assigning responsibilities to employees (Kaufman, 2014). Through empowering others, my mentors says she is developing talent leadership. Also through mentorship, leaders are able to develop talent. My mentor proposes reading of five books which she believes will help in improving knowledge about leaders and leadership. She believes that such mentorship helps in developing talents.

The Leader’s View of Organizational Culture

Organizational culture determines the success of any organization. A strong culture ensures that an organization achieves set goals while a weak one limits an organization from achieving the optimal. According to Madu (n.d), the most important thing that leaders do is managing culture. Culture refers to beliefs, values, and communication of behaviors that guide employees in an organization. A cohesive culture determines the suitability of activities in a firm contributing to its performance. My mentor believes that it is the unique culture of Walgreen Boots Alliance, Inc that has enabled it to maintain the leading position in the industry. She says that the core values that is dedication, trust, partnership, care, and innovation create a strong culture in the organization enabling it to be productive (Madu, n.d). It is thus important that organizations focus on ensuring that employees understand the culture. This way, they will execute their duties in accordance with the culture associated with improved productivity.

My mentor believes that it is important to ensure that all employees including the new ones understand the organizational culture to reap its benefits. According to Madu (n.d), organizational culture drives business performance. Through culture, organizations are able to change innovative ideas into successful products. Therefore, future performance of any organization is determined by its culture. My mentor proves this by stating that the culture of the organization has enabled it to outshine competitors. This is why she says that she would not wish to make haste cultural changes as they might affect the performance. Otherwise she notes the need to strengthen the culture since a strong culture is associated with improved performance.

Madu (n.d), argues that a strong organizational culture creates unity among employees due to the holding of common values and beliefs. Eventually, unity promotes performance and hence organizational success. Creating a culture that promotes motivation also leads to organizational success. My mentor argues that through rewards and incentives, employees are motivated leading to increased productivity. Through organizational cultures, leaders can motivate employees (Brubaker, 2011). The culture also enables employees to identify with an organization’s norms and values quicker. Such motivation levels enable employees to be accountable for organizational success. Therefore, leaders should identify ways of creating a strong culture that will motivate employees to realize desired outcomes.

The Leader’s Approach to Strategic Thinking

According to Switzer (2008) leaders require strategic thinking to enable organizations to keep up with changes in the market. Strategic thinking is a source of competitive advantage that every leader should take advantage of. It involves identifying emerging trends, evaluating whether they present any opportunities, and if any developing strategies to take the opportunity. In case the trends present threats, leaders focus on developing strategies to mitigate them. Such an ability is considered a competitive advantage for any organization (Agbor, 2008). For instance, through strategic thinking, my mentor is able to identify the biggest competitors of the company. This information is useful as it guides the leader in developing strategies for maintaining the leading position.

 Through strategic thinking, leaders are able to create and build a vision prior to strategic planning. This involves engaging right people and steps. For instance, at Walgreen Boots Alliance, Inc, the board plays an active role in creating organizational strategies. Additionally, other stakeholders are engaged in the process. Strategic thinking helps in implementing a successful strategic planning process (Agbor, 2008). For example, my mentor promotes strategic thinking since it ensures that the planning process follows proper steps. In the case of the organization, five strategic steps are followed to ensure that the planning process is successful. The leadership of the organization has also created a clear vision and purpose which guides employees on how to execute their duties.

In the changing economy, strategic thinking enables leaders to adopt effective strategies that lead to successful projects (Agbor, 2008). For example, Wilson-Thompson argued that in the current leadership role, she has learnt that past strategies are no longer effective in today’s working environment. She recognizes the importance of learning more skills to be an effective leader. She argued that leaders must rely on strategic thinking to understand new trends and develop strategies for responding to them. She also argued that to have a competitive advantage and sustain it, leaders must be strategic thinkers.

Agbor (2008), argues that organizations can gain a competitive advantage through strategic thinking. This is because, it enables leaders to innovate solutions to the changing economy. In the fast growing economy, organizations can only be able to keep up with the growth with strategic thinkers. Such leaders seek to understand their organizations eventually doing the right thing instead of doing things right.


Leaders determine the success of any organization. Therefore, they require leadership skills such as empowerment and leading change to drive organizations towards success (Kaufman, 2014). From the interview, I learnt the importance of organizational culture as a source of competitive advantage. Culture proves to be a key component in sustaining performance. Giving it enough attention, enables leaders to have a strong tool for communicating organizational values and beliefs. When people accept and embrace a culture, leaders are able to maintain growth, deliver expected services, mitigate risks, and eventually become competitive against competitors. Culture is thus important in any organization Madu (n.d). Additionally, I have learnt that strategic thinking is important in promoting creativity and innovation essential for successful organizations in the changing work environment (Agbor, 2008). Therefore, organizations should put into considerations various factors including leadership skills, organizational culture, and ability in strategic thinking in assigning leadership roles. This will ensure that they have a competitive advantage of rivals associated with greater success.


Agbor, E. (2008). Creativity and Innovation: The Leadership Dynamics. Journal of Strategic    Leadership, Vol. 1 Iss. 1, pp. 39-45.

Brubaker, D. (2011). Strategy, Structure and Culture: Aligning Organizational Systems.                     Eastern Mennonite University. Available at     https://emu.edu/now/peacebuilder/2011/06/strategy-structure-and-culture-aligning-          organizational-systems/

Kaufman, M. (2014). 10 Traits of Great Business Leaders. Forbes. Available at             https://www.forbes.com/sites/michakaufman/2014/09/05/10-traits-of-great-business-          leaders/#54906cc82dc7

Madu, B. (n.d). Organizational Culture as Driver of Competitive Advantage. Journal of            Academic and Business Ethics, pp.1-9.

SHRM (2018). Leadership Competencies. Available at             https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/behavioral-            competencies/leadership-and-            navigation/pages/leadershipcompetencies.aspx

Switzer, M. (2008). Strategic Thinking in Fast Growing Organizations. Journal of Strategic    Leadership, Vol. 1 Iss. 1, pp. 31-38.


Interview notes

Questions about General Leadership

How do you give credit where credit is due?

She ensures that whenever a person does a desirable act, she praises them. She ensures that she acknowledge everyone’s contribution as it seems to increase her credibility to other people.

If you wanted to create an environment where motivation can thrive, what’s the first thing you would do?

Motivation at work place is essential. It promotes working associated with improved production. The first thing to do to create such an environment is creating tasks that are beneficial to the organization. This makes every employee feel that their job makes a difference.

What does empowerment mean to you?

Empowerment means giving power and authority to other people to perform various functions. It involves giving workers skills, motivation, authority, and opportunity to perform given functions and holding them accountable for such actions.

What values are you committed to?

Teamwork, dedication to others, accountability, and commitment are the core values for any successful leader.

What are 5 key books you feel I should read, and why?

         The Five Dysfunctions of A Team: A Leadership Fable By Patrick Lencioni.

         Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith Glaser

         Good to Great by Jim Collins

         Man’s Search for Meaning By Viktor E. Frankl

         Leadership Is an Art by Max De Pree

These books are very important especially when one needs to learn more about leadership and leadership roles. They are detailed and thus useful for anyone aspiring to be a good leader.

Questions about Culture

How would you describe the culture of this organization?

Walgreen Boots Alliance, Inc has a unique culture with set values acting as a guide for every stakeholder. The organization has established a friendly environment with the purpose of encouraging collaboration and creativity. Employees find the culture unique and favourable.

How do you help new employees understand the culture of your organization?

The culture is driven by set values and the organization’s strategy. Every new employee needs to understand it to perform efficiently. Various means are used in helping new employees to understand the culture; they are given a thorough orientation with the purpose of explaining the culture. They are mentored by experienced people working in the company. They are then given foundational documents which they are encouraged to read to understand the culture.

Is there anything about the culture that you would change?

For now there is no need to change the established culture. However, in the future, there is a need to strengthen the culture to ensure that it influences all employees to identify with the company. Cultural changes are sensitive and therefore require good planning for a positive impact.

What kinds of rewards or incentives do you give, and what are these rewards for?

Monetary incentives are given to employees. The incentives come in various forms including profit sharing, bonuses. Paid time off, and cash awards. The incentives and rewards are given to serve as a source of morale and motivation associated with increased productivity. They also help in retaining talents in the organization.

Has your organization defined its core values? If so, how are they communicated?

The core values are defined which include trust, care, innovation, partnership, and dedication. The values are communicated through various including leaders leading by example, through training, and by communicating them in meetings and through newsletters.

What makes your organization unique, as compared to others similar to you?

The element of touching all communities across the world, commitment to corporate social responsibility, and working with organizations to create opportunities for the youth makes the organization unique. Placing global brands within the company also makes it unique.

Questions about Strategic Thinking

Who are your biggest competitors?

One of the biggest competitors of the company is Walmart. Others include CVS and Target. Amazon is also a big competitor.

Who is involved in the creation of the strategy at this organization?

The organization’s board plays an active role in creating a strategy in the organization. The executives also involve other stakeholders in creating better strategies.

Describe your strategic planning process

The organization implements five steps in the strategic planning process including;

Setting goals to clarify the vision

Gathering and analyzing information (current position and necessary improvements)

Strategy formulation

Strategy implementation

Control and evaluation

What is the mission and vision of this organization?

The vision is “Be the first choice for pharmacy, wellbeing and beauty – caring for people and communities around the world”. The purpose is “To help people across the world lead healthier and happier lives”

How is the mission or vision communicated throughout the organization?

The mission is hanged on the wall as part of its communication. In addition, there are several meetings formed with the purpose of communicating the mission. Various other communication channels such as emails, and newsletters help in sharing the message. Leaders also communicate the vision through word of mouth to ensure people believe in it.

How much have you learned in this leadership role?

The mentor has learnt a lot in the leadership role; first she learnt that the working world has changed and things that worked in the past are no longer working. Then there are essential roles that a leader must fulfil. These include inspiring trust, creating a vision, leading change, encouraging teamwork, and empowering others. The roles are essential to successfully lead any organizations.

How much would you like to learn in this leadership role?

The mentor seeks to learn more about effective leadership roles especially in the changing world. Leading in the hr department involves dealing with many different people and thus learning how to manage then effectively would be helpful.

Does your organization have a competitive advantage? If yes, would you say it is sustainable?

Various advantages of the organization give it a competitive advantage. These include geographical diversification, being large in the retail pharmacy market, and recession-resistant industry. The competitive advantage is sustainable.