2 Leadership Traits Howard Schultz Used To Grow His Brand

2 Leadership Traits Howard Schultz Used To Grow His Brand

  By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire


In short:

  • Howard Schultz was able to develop a culture of employee respect through his transformational leadership style, leaving behind an example for other business owners.
  • Schultz has a belief in intellectual stimulation, which led him to create a brand that broke the norms of coffee culture.
  • Secondly, he has a clear vision, which resulted in a company culture with a strong employee focus. 

Howard Schultz is a transformational leader who kicked off the U.S.’s second coffee revolution. His employee-focused leadership style left a template for other business owners to follow as they grow their own enterprises, and Schultz grew a global brand in the process.

Spurred by his brand vision, Schultz reinvigorated the coffee industry while building one of the world’s largest coffee chains with an employee-centric team. He used two classic transformational leadership practices to do this.

1. Intellectual stimulation


Transformational leaders like Schultz are marked by a belief in intellectual stimulation. They aren’t afraid to rock the boat, prefer a flow of new ideas and challenge status quo.

Schultz certainly challenged the status quo with his plan to create Americans’ “third place,” the most-visited site after home and work. This was unheard of in corporate coffee culture at the time. The "third place" concept involved  retail locations with inviting decor, calming music and famously speedy Wi-Fi so patrons would feel at home. Whereas other grab-and-go food stops are less inviting, Shultz was bold enough to imagine a place that felt more like home. This helped him become a category king of coffee chains.

2. Clear vision


Transformational leaders also have high motivation and a clear vision, which they share openly with their teams.

Schultz had motivation to develop a massive company and, more prominently, a vision of supporting his employees. He instituted new programs to support workers, including health benefits for part-time workers, tuition assistance, veterans hiring and an employee stock purchase program.

Schultz’s focus on employees came largely from memories of his father, who worked as a truck driver. When Schultz was seven years old, his father broke his ankle and lost his job. The family suddenly had no income. The experience stuck with Shultz, and later, when building his own brand, employee fulfillment and dignity became a top priority.

Schultz explained his dual focus -- profits and, more importantly, people -- on a Marketplace podcast in 2014.

"I feel strongly that we have demonstrated that we are a performance-driven company… At the same time, we have done all this through the lens of humanity, and that's what I'm most proud of,” Schultz told Marketplace.

Strong leadership qualities propelled Schultz forward, allowing his company to differentiate itself and usher in the second wave of the coffee revolution. We can't wait to see what the "third wave" of his career holds.

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