Our Story

The Birth of the Scarlett Leadership Institute
A story by Joe Scarlett


The topic of leadership has always been “top of mind” and high on the list of my business priorities. From my early days in the retail world it became clear that good leaders - good store managers in my world of retailing - produce the best results. It is my observation and belief that long term success is directly proportional to the quality of the leadership.

I learned a great deal from Tom Hennesy who was my boss and mentor for more than a decade at Tractor Supply Company. I learned about the impact of diligent personnel selection and the importance of recognition as the prime motivator of people. I learned to be patient and inquisitive and a whole lot more. I will forever be grateful for all I learned from Tom.

In my search for additional avenues of business education I attended various seminars and trade programs. Our company joined the International Mass Retail Association(IMRA)where I struck up relationships with many other retail executives. I was asked to join the Board and later served four years as its Chairman. I developed a friendship with and great respect for Don Soderquist who at the time was Vice-Chairman of Wal*Mart where he was considered one of the architects of the original Wal*Mart culture.   Don was also Chairman of IMRA for a few years where he promoted solid business leadership practices for all companies and where he also was an outspoken advocate of ethics in every aspect of business. When Don retired, he founded The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics at John Brown University in Siloam Springs Arkansas. I followed his progress, attended one of his classes and maintained a solid friendship.

In March 2005 Don again spoke about business and ethics at the Peer Learning Institute at Belmont University. Having backed away from my most important business responsibilities the previous fall and then motivated by Don I thought there might be a possibility to do something similar in Nashville. My wife Dorothy and I had discussed this idea on many occasions and, in addition, our family had just established a foundation committed to education. We talked about the idea again and, as always, Dorothy gave me enthusiastic support but “how do you get something like that started?” Then, much to my surprise, Janice Woodard from Belmont called one morning and asked if I have ever considered founding a leadership program at Belmont. Janice had just pushed the right button and we were off and running.

In partnership with Belmont University we started by using all we learned from Don, visiting Notre Dame, and studying what others had done in business leadership education. We learned from others’ experiences and went forward with a clear plan to enlist Middle Tennessee CEOs in content design. Our first program is a product of the contributions of thirty plus CEOs who put forth their thoughts and ideas on building business leadership skills. Those same CEOs have become our most enthusiastic supporters.

The first Scarlett Leadership Program kicked off in August 2006 and as mentioned above, the program met with great success.   As we grew, we recognized the need to take our programs beyond Middle Tennessee. We began to dream about growing first into a regional and eventually even into a nationally recognized firm.  

I recognized, in close collaboration with Belmont, that to embark on the hyper growth path we selected, it wasn't optimum to remain part of a regional university. In March of 2011, Belmont announced that they were spinning off the Scarlett Leadership Institute into it's own firm with headquarters at a new modern training facility in Franklin, TN.  

Our goal is as it's been since day one, provide an education experience that creates positive measurable behavioral improvement of high potential executives.  

Stay tuned!