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Josiah Gates: A Diamond in the Rough

Josiah Gates is the vice president of retail innovation at Aubuchon Hardware, which has 110 stores located throughout the northeast. One of his favorite sayings is, “Great leaders develop great leaders.” This is largely out of respect for the key mentors he has had along his leadership journey at Aubuchon Hardware, including former Chairman Bill Aubuchon III and former President and CEO Marcus Moran Jr., who refer to Gates as their “diamond in the rough.”

Leaders Develop Leaders

“I have always believed that great leaders develop great leaders.”

“When you’re transitioning as a leader, trust, respect, integrity and authenticity are all very important. When I transitioned from store manager to director of retail operations, one of my goals was to earn the respect of all of the store managers and district managers and people in the office. You do that through hard work and by showing your ability to contribute.”

“I feel there are leaders and followers, and we need both in order to run a company successfully. Not everybody is born to be a leader.”

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Learning from Mistakes

“You have to act like a leader and speak like a leader at all times. And you have to always be politically correct. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you have to respect people for who they are and what they stand for. I don’t like to disappoint people, and if you let your guard down, you can disappoint people. I’ve learned this the hard way.”

“You have to free yourself up to be a leader. Early in my career, I struggled to delegate, and it slowed down my growth a bit, but it was a learning opportunity. I even deal with it today, and I have to step back and think about what is the best use of my time.”

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Formal Mentorship

“My formal transition to leadership was a three- to four-year process. Before I became director of retail operations, I would have quarterly mentoring meetings with Bill Aubuchon III and Charles Lord. Whether we discussed the results from a Myers-Briggs survey I took, or leadership development principles, we would talk about my weaknesses and how I was going to improve.”

“We were very open and honest in these discussions, and the information was never shared with anyone. When you work for a company for 20 years, you achieve a level of trust, and I felt very comfortable in speaking with them and knew they were there to help me.”

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Team Building

“The No. 1 key to developing strong teams is to show appreciation for your team and always communicate clearly. Don’t leave them in the dark. In a large company of this size, communication can be challenging. The more you can communicate through meetings, project management tools like Asana or even email, not only does it bring everybody up to speed, but it makes them feel valued as an employee.”

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In It To Win It

“Obviously being a hard worker is key to being a leader. As a leader, it’s not a 40-hour work week. Oftentimes it requires additional hours in order to accomplish the goals you have set for the company.

“I look at four or five character traits when I look for future leaders. First, they have to have a good attitude and a willingness to learn. They also have to have integrity and be trustworthy, because the higher up you get in any organization, you realize that loose lips do sink ships. You also have to have a desire to grow. I was recently speaking to one of our field people about a future potential opportunity in the company, and he said, “Anything that is going to help the company be more successful is what I want to do.” Some people are happy with what they are doing and don’t want to change. Others have more of an appetite for growth and leadership. This guy has all of these qualities and the skill set, and it’s so gratifying to see.”

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Fewer to Pick From

“Job fairs and online resources like Indeed.com are new ways we’re looking to find the cream of the crop. At the end of the day, we want to recruit and retain the best possible people in the industry. Recruiting is key for us.”

About Liz Lichtenberger

Liz Lichtenberger
Liz is the special projects editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and trends, visits retailers, and attends industry events. She graduated from Xavier University, where she earned a degree in English and Spanish and was a member of the swim team. Liz is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children. She enjoys swimming, reading, doing home improvement projects around her house and cheering on her two favorite basketball teams, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Xavier Musketeers.

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