Leadership And Change Perspective: Case Of Starbucks

Leadership of any organization is highly important for dealing with change mechanism within organization and to cope with structural and cultural modifications of organization. An effective leader recognizes cues in internal and external environment and readily undertakes change with an aim of dealing with competitiveness within industry. Current essay has chosen Starbucks and carried out an in-depth investigation of leadership approaches of Howard Schultz who has reformulated the Starbucks and contributed to its success. The study has focused on servant leadership, trait based leadership and transformational leadership approaches of Schultz.

  1. Body

Among the key people behind success of Starbucks, the name of Howard Schultz is at the top of list. It has been highlighted that success of Starbucks is mainly based on the ability of Schultz to blend different approaches of leadership. Schultz has the vision to build a company which has huge respect for people and thus, he keeps the concerns of employees as core priority (Schultz, 2011). Initially, the vision of Schultz and Starbucks were slightly different but the Schultz has refined the vision of company, which now revolves around offering the third place to customers apart from their home and work, where they can have relaxing time (Gregory et al., 2004; Zaccaro, 2007). The cultivation of this new vision has brought many changes in the structure and culture of company, which has become more inclusive and open. The leader has brought many changes with him and cultivation of servant leadership culture is one of them (Dennis, Kinzler-Norheim and Bocarnea, 2010). The servant leadership culture of Starbucks has fostered the Schultz to rely on employees-first approach and it is based on the notion that employees who are valued by the organization are the one that value customers and organization the most.

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Some of the significant instances of changes brought by Schultz are; enactment of customer loyalty programs, number of breakthrough technological advancement and highly focused global expansion (Hargreaves and Fink, 2012). As an instance of change approach of Schultz, turning back to 2008, it can be seen that Schultz has shut down all of Starbucks stores across US for three hours to communicate with employees and making them feel that how valued they are for Starbucks (Schultz, 2011). Along with this, the Schultz has made phone calls to all of stores with an aim of enhancing interaction with employees and knowing about their concerns. It is indicating that as a leader, Schultz is highly inclusive for concerns of employees and he has created an employee focused organization (Spears, 2004). Along with this, the culture of openness, collaboration and communication is important for complementing the Schultz style of leadership that is blend of different approaches including; trait based leadership, servant leadership and transformational leadership.

According to the perspective of trait theory of leadership, the research journals and book of Schultz has indicated that there are five important traits that are being possessed by Schultz including; self-confidence, determination, sociability, integrity and intelligence (Kirkpatick and Locke, 1991). As an indication of self-confidence, Schultz has reflected in his own book that “Belief in ourselves and in what is right catapults us over hurdles, and our lives unfold” (Schultz and Gordon, 2011, p. 7). Along with this, Schultz is highly determined and he interacts with employees to obtain their agreement, which lead them to achieve gaols of organization in better way. Likewise, during the lower performance period of Starbucks, Schultz has maintained integrity and he honestly communicated about reasons of lagging performance to employees. Given the view of trait theory of leadership, emotional intelligence is one of an important trait of Schultz which has enabled him to understand the emotions and needs of employees and to build trusting relationship with employees (Michelli, 2006). Through his effective trait based leadership, Schultz has inspired the employees to feel pride on working with Starbucks. The same pride has served as the foundation of effective relationship of employees with co-workers and customers. Thus, it is reasonable to argue that effectiveness of trait based leadership of Schultz has led him to establish the culture of inclusiveness.

Followed by this, under the perspective of transformational leadership theory, Schultz has an ability to inspire his followers and he has managed change with greater effectiveness (Parolini, 2012). Starbucks has gone through number of expansions over the years and it has formulated number of new products with and aim of meeting changing demands of customers (Chua and Banerjee, 2013). All of these changes are being managed by Schultz through idealized influence. An initial evidence of transformational leadership of Schultz is based on his ability to transform the vision of Starbucks to completely new and he has reformed strategies and structure of the organization as well (Rowe, 2001). Schultz has taken the approach of role modelling and he has presented his own success story (his journey from the son of a poor man to CEO of Starbucks) with an aim of inspiring employees and taking them along for achievement of Starbuck’s vision (Russell and Gregory Stone, 2002). The effective leadership of Schultz has contributed to make the Starbucks as one of the most ethical company of the world and Schultz has made his appearance in the Fortune’s list of fifty greatest leaders (Schultz, 2011).

  1. Conclusion

The current essay has undertaken the case of Starbuck’s leadership and it has highlighted that Schultz has relied on blend of leadership approaches which has enabled him to reshape the vision of company for better. Schultz has successfully brought number of changes in Starbucks and he has manged them successfully through integrated leadership styles. Some of the core leadership approaches being followed by Schultz are; servant leadership, trait based leadership and transformational leadership. According to trait based theory of leadership, Schultz is confident, intelligent, honest, emotionally intelligent, sociable and determinant. Schultz is enlisted in the fifty greatest leaders of the world as identified by the Fortune and he has taken the Starbucks to the leading position in coffee chain industry.




Chua, A.Y. and Banerjee, S., 2013. Customer knowledge management via social media: the case of Starbucks. Journal of Knowledge Management17(2), pp.237-249.

Dennis, R.S., Kinzler-Norheim, L. and Bocarnea, M., 2010. Servant Leadership Theory. In Servant Leadership (pp. 169-179). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Gregory, A., Russell, R.F. and Patterson, K., 2004. Transformational versus servant leadership: A difference in leader focus. Leadership & Organization Development Journal25(4), pp.349-361.

Hargreaves, A. and Fink, D., 2012. Sustainable leadership (Vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons.

Kirkpatick, S.A. and Locke, E.A., 1991. Leadership: do traits matter?. The Executive5(2), pp.48-60.

Michelli, J.A., 2006. Starbucks experience. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.

Parolini, J., 2012. Transformational Servant Leadership. Xulon Press.

Rowe, W.G., 2001. Creating wealth in organizations: The role of strategic leadership. The Academy of Management Executive15(1), pp.81-94.

Russell, R.F. and Gregory Stone, A., 2002. A review of servant leadership attributes: Developing a practical model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal23(3), pp.145-157.

Schultz, H., 2011. Onward: How Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul. Rodale.

Spears, L.C., 2004. Practicing servant?leadership. Leader to Leader2004(34), pp.7-11.

Zaccaro, S.J., 2007. Trait-based perspectives of leadership. American Psychologist62(1), p.6.






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