Case Study #2: Starbucks
Starbucks is recognized for treating its employees, also known as partners, well. The
coffee giant offers insurance benefits, stock options and retirement plans. But back in
1997, Starbucks faced a crisis when tragedy struck and three employees were killed during
a robbery in Washington, D.C. The outstanding leadership of CEO Howard Schultz was
demonstrated when he flew straight to D.C. and spent a week with the co-workers and
families of the three employees.
While some leaders might have stayed as far away as possible from this tragic situation,
Shultz’s natural leadership traits prevailed. With compassion, approachability and a
dedication to meeting his partners’ needs, he did what was right. As a result, the public
viewed him and Starbucks more favorably.
What makes a company compassionate? It often means having to step up and take
responsibility. It’s impossible to lead in business – or in life – unless you genuinely care
about people. At the end of the day, leading with compassion never stops. And being a
leader is a 24/7 job, not just when it’s convenient. Schultz sat down the families of the
victims and apologized and took responsibilities for the deaths. What benefit was this to
internal and external audiences and why? How does this act raise to the qualities of a good
leader and why?