February 21 2024

How Leadership Built the Starbucks Empire Coffee Empire with Howard Behar

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Howard Behar is the retired president of Starbucks Coffee. He was a pivotal figure in Starbucks’ monumental growth from 28 to over 15,000 stores across five continents. This conversation is all about company culture, value creation, and the profound impact of servant leadership. With a career that spans over two decades at Starbucks, Behar shares the core principles that propelled the coffee giant to global success.


Key Takeaways:

The Essence of Servant Leadership

“The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.”

The importance of empowering employees at all levels to make decisions that affect their work directly. This principle of servant leadership fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.



Values-Driven Success

“If you do the right things right, the money follows.”

Focusing on people—both employees and customers—before profits not only leads to financial success but also ensures fulfillment and alignment with personal and organizational values.



The Power of Alignment


“The most important thing to have in any organization is alignment.”

Achieving alignment within an organization on how to live, work, and treat each other is crucial for driving a cohesive and effective company culture.



Learning from Mistakes


“Our best is going to change every day because we’re not perfect.”

The importance of learning from missteps and using them as opportunities to realign with company direction and values.


Innovation Through Empathy

“Leaders have to be curious and willing to ask questions.”

Howard attributes much of Starbucks’ innovation to the leadership’s empathy and openness to feedback, whether it’s improving equipment for baristas or introducing new store concepts like drive-thrus.


About Howard Behar:

Howard Behar is the retired president of Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International. Known for his servant leadership approach, Behar has been a vocal advocate for leading with value first. He is the author of “It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Leadership from a Life at Starbucks” and travels the world speaking to leaders, corporations, and students about servant leadership and value-driven success.

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