Servant leadership, which was first discovered by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970, can sound counteractive the first time you hear of it. How can a leader act as a servant? How will they get achieve their goals if they’re busy serving others? These are questions that come to mind before thinking about the ways that this type of leadership could be successful and highly goal-oriented.
Servant leadership entails a leader who has a need or desire to serve others so that they can develop themselves and therefore perform to meet organizational needs (PSU WC, Lesson 11, 2019). A servant leader’s purpose is to ensure that others are developed enough to where they can make their own decisions and be empowered to work independently and efficiently, allowing for the leader to focus on other matters such as developing more people so that they too can become productive members of an organization (PSU WC, Lesson 11, 2019).
As we learned from Northouse, servant leadership is an approach focusing on leadership from the point of view of the leader and his or her behaviors. This style of leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, empathize with them, and nurture them. The objective is for servant leaders to put followers first, empower them, and help them develop their full personal capacities (Northouse, 2016). Out of all the leadership styles, it is easy to see why servant leaders would be highly respected by their followers.
So, what does this theory have to do with Starbucks, the world’s most popular coffeehouse chain? The CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, is often referred to as a true example of a servant leader. As a leader, the best outlook to have for your company is based on one question: “How can I help you?” Meaning, how can I, your leader, help you to become the best you can be for this organization? This is the perspective that is practiced by the CEO of Starbucks, along with the whole organization. As stated in Forbes magazine, “Servant leadership is about serving a higher purpose and if that higher purpose is recognized by everybody in the organization then, in effect, everybody is actually a servant to that purpose” (Cooper, 2018). In order for an effective leader to get an entire organization on the same page, he must get them to want to serve that higher purpose, so that every member of the organization is working towards the same goal. How does a leader accomplish such a difficult task as that? He or she must be there for the members, making them a priority, and essentially, serving them first. Once a leader succeeds at this, the followers will want to serve that higher purpose and serve their organization properly.
Northouse presents a list of characteristics to model servant leader behaviors. This list consists of behaviors such as emotional healing, conceptualizing, putting their followers first, helping followers grow and succeed, empowerment, behaving ethically, and creating value for the community. In comparing this list to the values of Starbucks as a corporation, they are extremely similar. Starbuck’s has five main features that are a core part of their culture. Their five features are as follows:
- Servant leadership (“employees first”)- they focus a large amount of energy on supporting and serving their subordinates so that every employee has the opportunity to grow within the company.
- Relationship-driven approach-The company as a whole supports warm and friendly relationships between all their workers and wants them to treat the customer with that same warmth and friendliness.
- Collaboration and communication- They put effective communication at the forefront of their priorities to ensure that the company is consistent with quality, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and a focus on positive customer experiences.
- Openness- They encourage their employees to ask questions and inspire innovativeness.
- Inclusion and diversity– Lastly, they ensure that everyone feels welcome within their company, both workers and customers, with no tolerance for discrimination within their organization.
After comparing both the servant leadership characteristics and the five Starbuck’s values, it is easy to see the connection and similarity between the two lists.
It is clear to see, even from a customer perspective, how a company such as Starbucks can take pride in their name and their brand so that everyone who works there feels proud to be a part of something so special. The coffee chain has more loyal customers than most businesses and there’s something to be said for that consistent loyalty. A successful corporation such as Starbucks starts from the top down. If there is an effective leader who exhibits servant leadership, such as the CEO does, then they will see much success throughout the rest of the organization as well.
These ideas are all presented in the short but highly impactful mission statement at Starbucks which is:
“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” (Starbucks, 2019).
Cooper, K. (2018, July 04). Who Is The Servant Leader Really Serving? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/katecooper/2018/07/03/who-is-the-servant-leader-really-serving/#4bc550a2323c
Ferguson, E. (2019, February 20). Starbucks Corporation’s Organizational Culture & Its Characteristics. Retrieved from http://panmore.com/starbucks-coffee-company-organizational-culture
Mission Statement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.starbucks.com/about-us/company-information/mission-statement
Northouse, P.G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Williams, J. (2019). PSYCH 485: Transformational Leadership: Lessons 10 [Power Point Slides]. Pennsylvania State University: World Campus. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1972967/modules/items/25704959