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Retailer Executive of the Year Sets Example for Future Leaders

Leadership is the theme of the November issue of Convenience Store News. And it couldn’t be more appropriate this month to honor the 2020 CSNews Retailer Executive of the Year Darren Rebelez, president and CEO of Casey’s General Stores.

Since taking the reins of Casey’s in June 2019, Rebelez has brought in a highly diverse cadre of exceptional management talent, maintained a steady pace of expansion through both new builds and acquisitions, and led a major digital transformation that includes a new website, loyalty program and mobile app that facilitates ordering ahead and delivery. Much of these accomplishments occurred during one of the most challenging years ever for the retail business due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (See page 30 of the issue for more on his accomplishments.)

There are many different definitions of leadership, from Peter Drucker’s “the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers” to Bill Gates’ “as we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” However, the leadership definition I like the best comes from Forbes contributor and author Kevin Kruse: “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”

I like this definition because “social influence” implies a winning agreement or buy-in from “others,” not commanding them. And pointing them “towards the achievement of a goal” implies that the leader has articulated a vision and a goal that results in maximizing the efforts of others in the organization to achieve that goal.

The way the convenience store industry  an essential business — has responded to the pandemic is a great example of successful leadership, and Casey’s is a great case in point. The Iowa-based retailer was quick to reduce contact in order to keep its customers and team members safe, including the introduction of contactless delivery, pay ahead for carryout, and low contact checkout. It was also one of the first c-store retailers to give its full-time and part-time employees an additional $2-per-hour pay during the pandemic.

The November issue also features the winners of our 2020 CSNews Future Leaders in Convenience awards program (see page 42). The 20 up-and-comers and young seasoned executives being honored this year are the people we will count on to lead the industry in the new post-pandemic era. From the c-suite to key managerial roles in finance, merchandising, marketing and human resources, these talented leaders — all aged 35 and under — will help shape the future of convenience. 

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