The way to the top of the executive heap in supermarket retailing used to be simple: Just start as a bagger or stocker while in high school, accept as much additional responsibility as possible, persevere when all others weaken, have unparalleled good luck, then, a generation or so later, emerge as a senior-level officer. This model for upward mobility has produced loyal executives for food retailing, but is one that has produced limited executives too: Homegrown executives might ascend to ...

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