Passion is Everything: My Interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

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“Take your presentations to the next level with Carmine as your coach.” – Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

I was grateful to receive that endorsement from Howard Schultz for one of my books on leadership and communication. Schultz recently announced that he would step down as CEO of Starbucks. Needless to say, Schultz has reinvented the coffee culture in America by introducing Italian-style cappuccinos and lattes to the U.S market.

When I interviewed Schultz I learned a valuable lesson about inspiration and leadership, a lesson that has had a profound influence on my career, writing and speaking. And that lesson is this:

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a common purpose around a collective passion, anything is possible.”

In my first conversation with Schultz I was astonished that he rarely mentioned the word coffee. I was the first to bring it up.

“We’re not in the coffee business. It is what we sell as a product, but it’s not what we stand for,” he explained.

Starbucks is NOT in the coffee business, which is why it’s successful. You see, Schultz loves coffee, but he’s passionate about the people, the baristas who make the Starbucks experience what it is. Schultz’s vision was much bigger than to make a better cup of coffee. His moonshot was to create an experience; a third place between work and home. He wanted to build a company that treats people with dignity and respect. Those happy employees would, in turn, provide a level of customer service that would be seen as a gold standard in the industry.

Inspiring leaders like Howard Schultz are not afraid to share their passion. Passion is everything. A leader, manager or entrepreneur cannot inspire without it. Dig deep to identify your core value, the area where you want to make a ‘dent in the universe,’ as Steve Jobs once said. And ask yourself a question that Howard Schultz says is the key to success: What business am I really in? 

Carmine Gallo is a popular keynote speaker and communication advisor. Howard Schultz is one of more than 35 business leaders featured in Carmine’s bestselling new book, The Storyteller’s Secret: Why Some Ideas Catch On And Others Don’t. 

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