Our Unsung Leaders:
Leadership Lessons from Louis Greth
We’re not likely to pick up a magazine and read about an exceptional Latino leader who we haven’t heard about. We tend to read about the same leaders in magazines and on social media. In this celebrity-fixated culture we often overlook leaders who operate in relative obscurity but tackle immense challenges without seeking recognition or rewards. These Servant leaders are known for their humility who act as strong advocates for those less fortunate, and, as the English writer and theologian C.S. Lewis famously noted, “doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
When the topic of Latino leadership comes up, odds are your mind conjures names of images of well-known and well-respected leaders who’ve been extensively covered in the media. While you’d certainly do well to learn as much as you can from them, many Servant leaders have equally impressive stories to tell. This is one of them. I sat down with Louis Greth for over 2 hours recently to explore his thoughts on leadership, community, values, family, career, coaching, and legacy. This is the story of the impact he’s made not only in Northwest Arkansas, one of the fastest growing regions in the country, but also across the U.S. and beyond.
Louis Greth is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Walmart. He’s a soft-spoken, inclusive, focused, grounded, and talented business executive with a proven track record of achievements, at work, at home, and in the community. He’s a values-driven, authentic, empathetic and caring Servant leader. He’s, perhaps most importantly, a strong mentor, as demonstrated by the many people whose lives he has impacted, living his philosophy of paying it forward, while working hard not to let them down. He’s also an ardent advocate of the Latino community, which is driving success across the U.S. for all communities.
From humble beginnings and with a modest demeanor, Louis does not take himself too seriously as he methodically gets things done and disrupts the marketplace, as he did with the Bentonville Film Festival. While leading the Movie Buying department for Walmart, he saw a need for diverse, inclusive representation in media.
Today, there would be no Bentonville Film Festival in beautiful Northwest Arkansas without Louis. It was his idea to change the landscape of the film industry that ignited the infrastructure for the Bentonville Film Festival, which co-founders actress Geena Davis and Inclusion and Company CEO Trevor Drinkwater took to the next level. Louis, backed by Walmart, was determined to launch an organization that promoted underrepresented voices in the entertainment industry. And launch it he did. After only 5 years, 81% of films represented are female directed and 68% of the selections include people of color as directors. To place these numbers in context, Sundance Film Festival, one of the better-known film festivals had 40% directed or co-directed by a woman and 39% were people of color.
BFF, in its 6th year, stands out among film festivals as the champion for women and diverse voices in all forms of media and is being recognized as one of the top film festivals in the country. It is also the only film festival in the world that offers a guaranteed multi-platform distribution to the winners. It’s gratifying to see the real impact BFF has made on creating inclusion in all forms of media.
We should be proud of the work done at BFF to ensure the content audiences are experiencing accurately reflects the world around us, where the faces and voices of women, people of color, LGBT and people with disabilities are seen and heard. With a modest beginning 5 years ago, BFF’s attendance grew 144%, to 85,000 last year and is expected to surpass 100,000 in 2020, with an $8 million economic impact in the community. For comparison, the Sundance Film Festival had 125,000 in 2019. Without Louis, this change, locally and within the media industry, wouldn’t have happened. Louis believes that you, too, can provide strong leadership and make an impact regardless of your job title, job description, or geographic location, if you are ready to serve a bigger purpose.
Effective leaders operate from a variety of styles – Transformational, Transactional, Laissez-faire, and Autocratic, to name a few. Many of them are extroverts who seek the limelight and visibility for their efforts. Others, like Louis, a Servant leader who considers himself blessed and fortunate to be where he is in life, will be unassuming and humble. But he can easily inspire others to follow and change the world in their own way.
What we learn from Louis is that leadership comes in different forms and styles. All of us can do our part to leverage our own leadership, Servant or otherwise, to make the world a better place — to create a more inclusive, values-driven ecosystem for all to enjoy and prosper. This legacy is one we can all be proud of to leave to future generations.