Let Go & Lead
Howard Schultz Founder & CEO

Capturing the Imagination of Employees (3:26)

I heard you this morning talking to a young group of entrepreneurs, and you talked about one thing that you though that a lot of leaders need to let go of—particularly male leaders. You mentioned that was the whole concept of being tough and aggressive. But you used a word I thought was really interesting, and you use in your book, which is love.

Yeah. Well, when I returned as CEO in January of ’08, I think people were quite surprised that I came back.  And a lot of people said, ‘Why did you come back?  You don’t have too.  You didn’t have to.’  And the truth of the matter is, it is because of love—my love for the company, which is so deeply rooted over many, many years, and the deep responsibility I feel to our people and their families to preserve the integrity of the company.

But I also feel, as a leader and as a male, I think somehow along the way, we are imprinted with this philosophical outward feeling that we should display a strong facade and be tough and macho.  And I feel or felt that during the transformation of the company, during the financial crisis—and so also some issues we had to deal with—that it was important to display raw emotion about my concern of the situation; my love of the company; and not to try and be someone I’m not.

I don’t think you can prescribe the kind of leader that you should be.  It has to be authentic.  And for me, the authenticity of being the kind of person, manager, and leader I want to be is to be comfortable in my own skin and be the person that I truly am.   And I think that, coupled with the fact that I think people today, in every walk of life, need truth and authenticity.

And unfortunately we are living at a time when there’s been such a fracturing of trust, because so many institutions and people have let us down, and people are more cynical that ever before.  And I think one of the reasons why we’ve done so well the last year and half is because we literally try to put our own feet in the shoes of our people and understand what they were dealing with, both in terms of the cataclysmic crisis and what it was like to be a Starbucks person.  And I think the leadership of the company had to answer in the affirmative: what’s in it for our people?

We’re not only trying to transform the company; we’re trying to do it in a way in which we continue to share the success of the company without people.  And I think people want to be part of something larger than themselves if they believe in it.  And I don’t think you can prescribe that or push people.  There has to be an emotional connection that I think is based on truth and authenticity, and obviously trust.