Howard Behar


Howard Behar

Former President of Starbucks Coffee

“It’s not about the coffee,” says Howard Behar, the former president of both Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International.  Believing that “if you regard employees and customers as human beings, everything else will take care of itself,” Behar bases the chain’s mega-success on the power of great leadership to create great relationships with staff and customers alike.

Behar’s career in business spans over 50 years, all in consumer oriented businesses covering several industries. He retired from Starbucks Coffee after 21 years, where he led both the domestic business, as President of North America, as the founding President of Starbucks International, growing the company from 28 retails stores to over 15,000 outlets spanning five continents and into one of the world’s most recognizable brands.

Behar is the author of It’s Not About The Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks.

Principles of Personal Leadership

1. Know Who You Are: Wear One Hat
Our success is directly related to our clarity and honesty about who we are, who we’re not, where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there. When organizations are clear about their values, purpose, and goals, they find the energy and passion to do great things.

2. Know Why You’re Here: Do It Because It’s Right, Not Because It’s Right for Your Resume

The path to success comes from doing things for the right reasons. You can’t succeed if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish and without everyone being aligned with the goal. Look for purpose and passion in yourself and the people you lead. If they’re not there, do something.

3. Think Independently: The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom

People are not “assets,” they are human beings who have the capacity to achieve results beyond what is thought possible. We need to get rid of rules–real and imagined–and encourage independent thinking in others and ourselves.

4. Build Trust: Care, Like You Really Mean It

Caring is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength, and it can’t be faked—within an organization, with the people we serve, or in the local or global community. Without trust and caring we’ll never know what could have been possible. Without freedom from fear, we can’t dream and we can’t reach our potential.

5. Listen for the Truth: The Walls Talk

Put the time into listening, even to what’s not said, and amazing results will follow. You’ll know what your customers want, you’ll know why the passion is missing from your organization, you’ll learn solutions to problems that have been sitting there waiting to be picked.

6. Be Accountable: Only the Truth Sounds like the Truth

No secrets, no lies of omission, no hedging and dodging. Take responsibility and say what needs to be said, with care and respect.

7. Take Action: Think like a Person of Action, and Act like a Person of Thought

Find the sweet spot of passion, purpose, and persistence. “It’s all about the people” isn’t an idea, it’s an action. Feel, think, do. Find the balance, but act.

8. Face Challenge: We Are Human Beings First

Use all the principles to guide you during the hardest times. If the challenge is too big, if you’re stuck, take smaller bites. But remember to put people first, and you’ll find the guidance you need.

9. Practice Leadership: The Big Noise and the Still, Small Voice

Leading can be the noisy, “I’m here!” kind of thing. But don’t ever forget that leaders are just ordinary human beings. Don’t let big noises crowd out the truth. Listen to your still, small voice. Let quiet be your guide.

10. Dare to Dream: Say “Yes,” the Most Powerful Word in the World

Big dreams mean big goals, big hopes, big joys. Say “yes” and enjoy all that you are doing, and help others to do the same.