Joe Scarlett to close his Scarlett Leadership Institute this year

April 19, 2013

Nashville Business Journal interview with Jamie McGee

Joe Scarlett has decided to close the Scarlett Leadership Institute he created in 2006 for executive education.

"We've had a tremendous amount of top-flight graduates," Scarlett said this week, adding that more than half of the 250 people who have graduated from the program have been promoted in their current companies. "The marketplace has just changed and companies are much more reluctant to invest the kind of time and money it takes to go to one of these programs."

The institute will close at the end of the year.

Scarlett, former CEO and chairman of Brentwood-based Tractor Supply Co., patterned the institute after former Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Don Soderquist's Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics at John Brown University, and partnered with Belmont University before spinning it off as an independent program in 2011. The program included 18 days of leadership training from experts in various leadership specialties for $15,000.

Scarlett said closing the institute was a tough decision. His original plan was to develop a program that would be a sustainable business even after he left the helm, but participation has not been high enough, due to factors including the struggling economy and new leadership at the helm of companies that put less emphasis on such programs. Based on his feedback from alumni, companies they worked for and mentors, the quality of the program was not in question, he said.

"I'm proud of the impact we have had on every individual who has been through our program," he said.

Scarlett said when the program began, more than thirty CEOs in Middle Tennessee gathered to share their ideas of leadership. Interpersonal skills — how to motivate, communicate, build teams — emerged as the most important aspects of being a strong leader. An executive development plan was built based on that concept.

Scarlett said he will likely work on a book about leadership as his next pursuit.

Scarlett writes about his decision to close his leadership institute in the current print edition of the Nashville Business Journal.

Joe Scarlett: Closing leadership institute at year's end

April 22, 2013

Nashville Business Journal


Corporate mergers, restructuring and internal company changes have translated into fewer companies investing the time and money for our model of leadership education.
The bottom line is that it is no longer possible to continue our work with our current business model and we have made the difficult decision to close the Scarlett Leadership Institute as it exists today.

We are proud of the success of our graduates – most have moved into positions of greater leadership with their organizations. We stay in touch and will hold our annual Alumni Event on October 22. We are proud of the work we’ve done with business leaders in our community and appreciate your involvement.

We plan a smooth transition for clients and staff. Our training center is open for business through the end of the year. The final classes of the Signature Executive Program and Emerging Leaders will go forward as scheduled and graduate this fall. We will continue to provide one-day seminars and custom leadership programs through December, and ask that you continue to partner with us for your custom development needs.

We expect to continue our work in new ways. I am writing a second book and will continue to support business education through the Scarlett Family Foundation. As always, I will be available to speak to business groups and organizations about leadership.

As we move beyond 2013, Mary Fink and our experienced instructors will be available to work with companies on leadership development programs that result in lasting change. 

As you’ve heard us say many times, recognition is the #1 motivator of people. Please send stories about the impact of the Scarlett Leadership Institute on yourself, your leadership team and your company. We plan to pass your stories on to our graduates.

Again, thank you for your support for the last seven years.

Joe Scarlett is founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute and retired chairman and CEO of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at

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