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Joe Lueken: The Grocer With Something To Teach CEOs About Leadership

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Joe Knew Where His Success Came From

Are you one of those poor souls who does not read the obituaries?08012014-ows_140676680423001

Pity: so many memorable stories.

Like the story of Joe Lueken. A couple years ago Mr. Lueken turned down the opportunity to make buckets of cash by selling his Bemidji-based grocery store chain. Instead, as he retired, he set up an employee stock ownership program and transferred the company to his workers.

 “My employees are largely responsible for any success I’ve had, and they deserve to get some benefit from that,” Lueken told the Star Tribune in 2012….

He was a philanthropist who stocked shelves and took his break with the other workers in the break room. And—most telling for me—the people who worked for him had great respect for him. He was a guy whose work ethic and his caring demeanor touched lives. And it seems—at least from my reading of a couple of articles—he did so with joy.

Mr. Lueken died on July 20 after a long battle with cancer.

JoeLuekenVideoStrib-08012014

As we watch the explosion of CEO salaries and look with wonder on the board members who agree to these ridiculous payouts, it’s hard not to wish many of the current batch of muckety-mucks had worked for Joe. Maybe his humanity would have rubbed off.

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Image credit: StarTribune

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