Let Go & Lead
Howard Schultz Founder & CEO
Starbucks

On “Letting Go” to Lead (2:39)

HOWARD SCHULTZ:
Well I think building a company or an organization or any kind of enterprise, in my mind is a team sport. It can’t be defined and it can’t be sustained by one person. So you’ve got to surround yourself with people who have the skill and experience well beyond yours, and you’ve got to share. And you’ve got to let go. And you have to trust that people are going to be able to do the job you asked them to do, and maybe many times better.

And I also think there’s nothing wrong with making a mistake or failing, as long as you’re not betting the company, and as long as you don’t do it twice. But I think great organizations, great companies, have to be able to create an enduring mechanism for activity and future leadership. And it’s not about one person; it literally is about a lot of people doing lots of good work, and you have to let go for that to occur.

MARIL MACDONALD:
And you’re, for me, the perfect guy for this question: You’ve talked so much about letting go and all the various ways you’re letting go.  You also talked about the fact that in some ways as Chairman, maybe you let go too much.

HOWARD SCHULTZ:
Well, I think if I said I let go too much, it would assume that I wasn’t part of the problem, and I was as culpable as anyone else in the years where there was hyper-growth and we weren’t focused on the customer and the values of the company, and growth became a strategy as opposed to an outcome.

So I don’t think I let go too much; I just don’t think I was paying as much attention as I should have, to be honest with you.  And I think the reason I came back is an admission of that.  And I apologized to all our people because I think we as leaders had let them down. But we also promised that we were going to restore the company back to its rightful place.

We just had a record year.  We just had the best quarter in the history of the company.  However, this is no time to celebrate, and there’s no victory lap.  And we’ve got a lot of work to do, the economy’s still very challenging.