4 Starbucks Leadership Style Precepts

Starbucks is known the world over for their chain of coffee shops. It is one of the most successful American companies that is now serving hot and cold coffee and non-coffee based beverages to 64 countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan, China, Turkey, United Kingdom and the Philippines, to name a few. In the US alone, there are about 11,000 stores, according to the coffeehouse’s annual report. In China, there are currently 700 stores, and more will be opened within the year.

The success of coffee giant Starbucks is definitely admired and even envied by competitors around the world. What makes this multi-million company incredibly successful is highly attributed to the company’s leadership style. One of the statements that Starbucks released about their leadership reads: “Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup.” This can be translated to the coffee chain wanting to serve first. So, based on that theory, Starbucks’ leadership style is “servant leadership.”

What Does Servant Leadership Mean?

From the term itself, servant leadership style is practiced when a company’s sole purpose is to serve others – to make other people’s needs a top priority. This leadership concept was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay “The Servant as a Leader,” which was first published in 1970. In his essay, Greenleaf said, “The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

“The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?“

Starbucks is recognized as one of the most ethical companies around the world today. This means that the company strives to make a difference in other people’s lives. Besides, the multi-billion company not only goes beyond its customers’ needs, but also aims to serve the greater good of the community, which was proven after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The company spent their time and resources into helping rebuild the community.

Although many people are opposed to servant leadership style, there is no denying that it offers several advantages.

1. It Works Well In a Diverse Workplace.

Autocratic leadership will alienate employees in a diverse workplace, while a democratic form of leadership may cause opposing views to be lost or distorted. But because the servant leadership style serves every member of the group, this allows for personalized management, ensuring each personality is catered for and team cohesiveness is maintained.

2. It Breeds Loyalty.

With other styles of leadership, the needs of the company are put ahead. But with servant leadership, the staff’s needs are prioritized over the business’. When a business embraces this style of leadership, it has a strong sense of consideration for its employees. As a result, the management will cater for their employees’ need to develop in his or her chosen career, encouraging loyalty to the company.

3. It Encourages Involvement.

Under a servant leadership style, a workplace operates for the individual needs of the employees or as a whole. In this type of leadership, you are also encouraging involvement among staff members – allowing them to feel free to offer their opinions and input on important matters.

4. It Promotes Productivity.

The servant leadership style promotes productivity because of the strong positive feelings between the staff and the management. This is because it translates to a high sense of morale. And when people are happy with their jobs, productivity rises, too.

While Starbucks as a company prefers the servant leadership style, the company’s CEO, president and chairman Howard Schultz, considered as one of “the world’s greatest leaders,” has a different leadership approach.

Howard Schultz Leadership

Mr. Schultz leadership style is a blend of democratic and transformational leadership. The former is defined as the kind of leadership that lets employees freely voice out their opinion and input. Although business decisions are made considering what other members say, it is still completely under the leader’s discretion to choose the best course of action to take. Meanwhile, the latter kind of leadership is the kind of leadership that upholds morale. This means that the leader and followers are bound together through the leader’s vision and personality. This lets him gain his members’ trust, respect and admiration.

The Starbucks CEO offers support and encouragement to his employees, as well as followers. He is also a great communicator and listener, gathering ideas and giving recognition to that contribution. Aside from that, Schultz’s leadership style revolves around motivation and inspiration. He encourages his staff to give feedback and ask advice from the employees, using personal lines of communication like email and telephone calls. But what really defines Schultz’s manner of leading his people is empowerment, quality service and entrepreneurship.

Schultz said, on how businesses should operate in the United States, “I think the private sector simply has to take a larger role than they have in the past. Our responsibility goes beyond the P&L and our stock price…. If half the country or at least a third of the country doesn’t have the same opportunities as the rest going forward, then the country won’t survive. That’s not socialism.”

Starbucks is recognized as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” for eight years now. The nominees for this award were screened and evaluated using categories that include Reputation, Ethics and Compliance Program, Governance and Leadership and Innovation.