Donny Patton: A Lifestyle of Leadership

Donny Patton

JRW Owner and CEO Birmingham, AL

CEO Donny Patton has been with the JRW Company for what seems like his entire life. After the original founder of JRW, John R .White, passed the company along to Donny’s father L.Q. Patton, Donny began tagging along to the office at an early age. He spent Saturdays at the office with his father, learning the ropes and absorbing the atmosphere of the place. Donny moved into an actual position with the company well over thirty years ago.

Having started the second generation of family-ownership, Donny recently moved into the role of CEO, having been President of the company since his father passed away in 1992. From this role, Donny is able to cast vision and lead the company he has known his entire life. We were able to sit with him a while to ask him a few questions on what it takes to be a great leader.

Question: Why do you think leadership is important?

Answer: It is hard to know when you arrive if you don’t know where you are going. Men, especially, are prone to wander aimlessly through life unless they understand a clear purpose and established goals. It takes a leader to define those.

Question: What’s the best leadership advice you ever received?

Answer: My dad, L.Q. taught me that leadership is about consistency. You have to show up every day with a positive attitude and a willing spirit.

Question: Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Why and how did this person impact your life? 

Answer: My dad, of course, had a huge influence on me. I really admire the grit of the greatest generation, and have great respect for the men and women of the armed forces who defend our country.

Question: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Answer: Leadership is really about trust. To build trust you have to be vulnerable, and willing to let others in. Unfortunately, modern culture associates leadership with power and authority. I think the ability to be vulnerable and humble are essential for successful leadership.

Question: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Answer: The biggest challenge to leaders today is understanding those whom we are called to lead. We see a diversity of cultures and world views in our team members today and bringing them to function together as a team requires new skills and the ability to adapt quickly.

Question: What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Answer: There are terrific resources available, and I try to read and absorb as much as I can. I meet groups of other business owners and discuss best practices and we challenge each other and hold each other accountable.

Donny continues to lead JRW everyday, continuously working to build up other leaders around him. 

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