Howard Behar in the book It’s not about the coffee. Leadership principles from a life at Starbucks talks about what keeps the corporate culture of Starbucks. The author argues that the most important thing in life and business are people. Starbucks‘ business is about serving people, not customers.

It’s not about the coffee. Leadership principles from a life at Starbucks
Leadership principles from a life at Starbucks
book cover

Based on the importance of people, Howard Behar derived 10 principles of personal leadership that should guide a successful leader to achieve global goals. Each principle is given a separate chapter, which provides examples from the personal experience of the author in Starbucks and tips on how best to deal with a given situation.

These are the ten principles of personal leadership:

1. Know who you are: wear one hat.

Success depends on the clarity and honesty of our ideas about who we are and who we are not, what we want to achieve and in what way. The author advises wearing the same hat. In the book, he explains what it means. To wear one hat is to know what you are worth, and not to settle for less, to appreciate yourself and your work.

To wear one hat is to know what you are worth
To wear one hat is to know what you are worth

Our success is directly related to how honest we are with ourselves, how we understand who we are, what we strive for and how we are going to achieve the goal. To look for your hat, your “I”, is to move somewhere.

2. Know why you’re here: do it because it’s right, not because it’s right for your resume.

If you choose a job because of the position, you can get nothing from it but the position. If you love your job and strive for the highest goal, the results and rewards will be more significant.

3. Think independently: the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.

We don’t have to write all-purpose manuals that turn people into automatons, you should focus on the results and why we get them. When we allow ourselves to make decisions based on shared goals, both our satisfaction with the work and our contribution to it grow.

the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom
The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom

When we are trusted to think and act for ourselves, we feel uplifted and can exceed any expectations, including our own. The more we know about ourselves and our goals, the less we need rules.

4. Build trust: care, as you mean it.

Get used to be attentive to others. You need to take care of both those with whom it is pleasant to communicate and those who are difficult to deal with. This will help you to deal with errors. Care, big and genuine, is an immutable rule.

5. Listen for the truth: the walls talk.

Listening to what is not said out loud may be the hardest part. Communicate in person: there is no substitute for direct contact. You can’t know anything until you ask, you need to find out how you are doing. Many of us want to express our opinion but refrain from doing so. Many people fear that they will be pushed away, they would not want to listen.

As a result, they are silent and do not speak. The sign of a good leader is to work hard to make a difference, to make the unspoken clear. Listen to everyone. Speak for yourself. Take the time to achieve consistency. Often listening is the fastest way to deal with a problem.

6. Be accountable: only the truth sounds like the truth.

One of the most serious mistakes is concealing the truth and avoiding the answer in communication with employees. Even when there is no formal interaction, the need for information does not disappear. Something is bound to fill the vacuum. To communicate honestly and openly, the best tactic is to call a spade a spade.

By telling half the truth to half the people, we are rapidly slipping into a systematic, petty deception. Fear of the truth leads to the shame of exposure, as the truth sooner or later becomes known. To be truthful, you must first not lie to yourself, then to everyone else.

7. Take action: think like a person of action, and act as a person of thought.

Realization of an idea requires perseverance. People need to believe that they can achieve something, to understand that they have the right and should try, even if their attempts will not succeed in the end. Success comes and goes unpredictably. Not everything works out, and yet you stay with your idea until you are convinced it is wrong or you succeed with it.

Realization of an idea requires perseverance
Realization of an idea requires perseverance

It is necessary to understand that to stop does not mean to give up. You do not stop moving on the same path, as convinced of his error, it is not a rejection of the goal and a change of route. If nothing is done, nothing will happen, but every case must be carefully considered.

8. Face challenge: we are a human being first.

Staying on course is a skill that can and should be learned and used. In a crisis, we often get lost, because we cannot act in the usual way. Maybe we should break the problem apart, have a little success with one of them, then more and more. It is important to move forward and keep the big picture in mind.

A true leader recognizes the truth before it is fully known. The source of many difficulties is not crises, but good luck. When a leader begins to feel that he is invincible, this often leads to unacceptable softening of requirements and a departure from basic values. Be true to yourself, watch it. According to the author: first people, then profits.

9. Practice leadership: the big noise and the still, small voice.

First, the leader should not amaze everyone with amazing ideas, but ensure that the organization lives according to its principles and moves towards the realization of a common dream. The one who always wears the one hat does not worship celebrities and does not fawn before anyone, but disinterestedly admires people who have done something outstanding.

To grow a company, you must first grow people
To grow a company, you must first grow people

It is necessary to deal with all employees, not just those who constantly tell you that you are a wonderful person. Hiring an employee is easy, developing it is much more difficult. To grow a company, you must first grow people.

10. Dare to dream: say Yes, the most powerful word in the world.

Once you start denying people one thing, it’s easy to extend the practice to a whole range of other things. Remove the word No and the whole situation, the whole attitude towards it will radically change.

The word Yes always speaks of people. It is emotional, it involves actions and reactions that result in emotions. To say Yes is to give a chance to your own and others’ dreams.

Howard Behar calls for people to work with each other, to be united by one common goal, regardless of their status. People, as the author proves, are the driving mechanism that leads the company to success.

The book It’s not about the coffee. Leadership principles from a life at Starbucks is about how to build relationships in the team, and how to be a leader in the industry. It is very easy to read. The Starbucks book is intended for a wide range of readers.

I strongly recommend to read Never Eat Alone as a good addition to this book.