Lessons in Leadership


A vital part of Wayne’s success as a leader is his willingness to share and connect with others.

Wayne McFarland in the produce area of a super center

If you get the chance to speak with Wayne McFarland Jr., you really want to take it.

The vice president and regional general manager for Walmart Region 76 is one of those people you meet during your career who will teach you a lot in just a few minutes of conversation. And it’s all because of one important characteristic of his: Wayne loves to share the lessons he’s learned — even his failures.

“I faced some hardships early on as a leader,” he recalls. “I share my failures because a lot of times people see me now and think I only experienced success.”

“Everyone has a reason why they get up every day and deliver the best they can for Walmart,” Wayne says. “You go through pain, deal with hard things and grow in between it. That’s where success comes from.”

Wayne McFarland holding a basketball

A life-changing letter

Wayne’s growth began back in 1999 when he started as an hourly associate at Store 2645 in Blackstone, Virginia. He was a sophomore in college and just hoping to pay for his college books.

He moved from stocking candy to working in lawn and garden, but with experience in private grocery stores, Wayne had his eye on produce.

So, he wrote a letter to his manager. (Yes, that’s right, a letter!) He outlined his experience and expressed his passion for the food side of the business.

Once he landed in produce, there was no looking back!

About a year later, Wayne says he was unloading a truck when his co-manager handed him the walk-in keys and announced, “you’re now promoted to assistant manager of produce, and your produce order has to be in by 10 p.m.”

At only 20 years old, he was managing people and learning to be a leader. “Associates really helped me grow as a leader.”

Learning to lead

Fast forward to 2008, Wayne was running his first store: Store 1688 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which won Store of the Year under his leadership.

He grew a reputation for turning tough stores around. And along the way, he made a few mistakes which helped him grow as a manager.

Wayne recalls a tough conversation he had about his second store. His market manager at the time noted that the store ran fine when he was there, but struggled when he wasn’t.

“When you’re coming up as an hourly associate, you’re used to being an individual contributor. You’re not used to bringing your team along,” Wayne shares. “I made it a little bit about myself, thinking my individual performance would help carry it.”

Reading leadership books helped him learn to motivate associates by sharing his personal story. “When you become a manager, you have to teach and upskill your team on how to run a store.”

By connecting with associates, Wayne developed the culture of ownership and accountability that builds great stores. “I talked about my childhood, the adversity I've been through and the reason why I work the way I work,” Wayne explains. “I let them know, ‘Hey, it's less about me. It's more about you.’”

Today, he takes pride in naming associates who were on his team at those challenging stores and who are now in leadership positions.

Wayne McFarland interacting with a diverse group of store associates

Wax on

Wayne’s hands-on leadership approach is obvious in the stories he shares.

There’s the time that an elderly customer approached him about the younger associates’ pants sitting too low. He spoke with his team and offered the associates belts — his own belts, in fact. “For the next two weeks, I think I gave away 20 belts.”

At another store he managed, the white tile floors never looked quite right. Wayne spotted the teaching opportunity.

“My four co-managers and I researched how to wax floors. One night, we each waxed a main aisle in the store. We brought the maintenance team with us and showed them how we did it,” he shares. “Then, we had them teach it back to us to make sure they had it down. We ended up having the best floors in our market!”

Wayne knew he had nailed it when a lawyer walked into the store, stood at the front checkout and asked, “Is it okay to step on your floors? They look wet.”

Wayne McFarland interacting with a diverse group of store associates

Giving back to grow

When Wayne talks about being promoted to his current role of vice president and regional general manager in 2023, the conversation returns to sharing. “It’s been such a rewarding experience, getting to share what I’ve been through.” As he visits stores, it’s all about finding ways to support the store associates — how to make their work easier and how to help them grow.

For Walmart leaders like Wayne, success comes from investing in the growth of others and from giving — whether it’s giving career advice, belts or tips on waxing floors.

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