Home Depot’s Marvin Ellison: Leadership — The Human Buffer

I mentioned in my last post how we in leadership would be better off if, after setting them up to succeed, we then let employees “do their job.”

Seems this article about Marvin Ellison at Home Depot agrees with that sentiment. (I love being vindicated by others…!)

“Leadership as a Human Buffer…” HD’s Ellison says to senior managers: “Leave ’em alone and let them do their job.” “If you have issues, take ’em up with me.”

In other words, it’s about accountability. Marvin, in charge of all U.S. Home Depot stores, says “I’m responsible, you deal with me.” Further, “You corporate managers — stop cluttering up my store managers’ day with superfluous BS. If you need something, I’m your guy. Leave my store people out of it.”

To quote the BusinessWeek article, Ellison “…severely restricted messages from headquarters to the stores during the rest of the week.”

What a concept.

Pay attention here; whether I agree with the article’s commentary on Nardelli (I don’t, necessarily), I do truly believe that leaders should be the buffer between those who”do” and those who “interfere,” even if done with good intentions. The article mentions store managers receiving some 200-odd emails and reports per day.

Did you read that??? TWO HUNDRED REPORTS per day!!

Dumber than dirt. When something is that stupid, we’ve got to do two things: first, stop such stupidity from interfering with our troops. Second, when we’ve taken care of that, work to rid ourselves of such idiotic practices.

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann


  1. says

    Bo, your comments are dead on. I expect we’ll soon see the new newest wave of accountability — Boards of Directors. Like mafia bosses, they’ve too long been the power and decisions behind the curtain…

    Randy, always the truth with a hint of humor… it is interesting, isn’t it, when leaders discover what the rank and file have known for decades? More interesting, of course, is that we sometimes consider these late-to-the-dance discoveries as “revelations.”

    Thanks to you both for great comments…


  2. Randy says

    Unscientific survey – no grad assistants involved. Subsequently validated by respected business rag account of successful Fortune 500 exec’s leadership. And it started by having some good discussions with people on the road which makes travel almost enjoyable. Oh yes, and I absolutely agree. Good post, good work and good direction to leaders.

    Randy Boek

  3. says

    Good article and yes, I agree that it would seem to be common sense, unfortunately uncommon sense is the common sense for many today!

    It is amazing how myopic a cost cutting posture can cause managers to be. Based on what I read about Nardelli prior to this debacle I would have guessed that he well understood and was able to balance the powers and influence of Wall Street quarterly reports with the real impact of strategic decisions.

    It’s highly unfortunate for HD and too bad for Nardelli that this is how he will be remembered! Maybe one of these days the experience and expertise on the corporate boards will start to show – as that is where I think most arrows should point.

    Bo Carrington

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