The New CEO of JCPenney

In his article “Marvin Ellison, The CEO Who’s Reinventing J.C. Penney,” Phil Wahba (2016) discusses the leadership style and accomplishments of new JCPenney CEO Marvin Ellison. Ellison is getting attention for his leadership because JCPenney was one of few department stores to show an increase in profits over the 2015 holiday season. Ellison was formerly an executive vice president at Home Depot where he helped the company’s turnaround by “focusing on unsexy but primordial things like the supply chain and the integration of stores and e-commerce” (Wahba, 2016). He is working on similar tasks with JCPenney, but he is also making other big changes.

An overarching theme that I see in this article is Ellison’s ability to relate to employees and customers. Ellison’s predecessor attempted to make JCPenney a “flashier retailer with fancier merchandise” (Wahba), but Ellison had different plans. He started by visiting store employees, not just managers but also employees who work on the floor. He noticed that senior managers were wearing clothing way beyond the budget of the typical JCPenney employee or customer. He now requires them to wear JCPenney brand clothing (himself included) and also wear the same nametags as employees on the floor when they visit stores. This simple change alters how the company perceives its employees at different levels, promoting equality rather than a negative distinction between higher-level and lower-level employees. It is a task-based action that creates a relation-based outcome.

The article describes other changes that Ellison has made, many of which involve logistics, product lines, rebranding, etc. As with many successful leaders, Ellison comes from a humble background, working his way up through retail and growing up in a large, poor family. Wauba (2016) characterizes Ellison as a mild-mannered man who prefers simplicity to flashiness. He is a straight-talker who seems to prefer staying out of the limelight.

Ellison has only been CEO of JCPenney for 7 months, but he is already making big gains with his decision-making and awareness of company culture. His common sense solutions and relatability are a good sign that he will be successful in his future with the department store.

Wauba, P. (2016). Marvin Ellison, the CEO Who’s Reinventing JCPenney. Retrieved from

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