Starbucks Coffee is a leader in their industry and has recently come under some heat after a YouTube video surfaced of two African American men getting arrested while waiting for a friend in Philadelphia back in April. To counter the backlash, the company leaders took some drastic measures. On May 29th, 2018, Starbucks shut down more than 8,000 stores to orchestrate a mandatory racial-bias training session. Starbucks handled the situation masterfully and their strategies can provide some powerful leadership lessons.
It’s easy to live your business ethics when things are running smoothly, but when a crisis happens it tests everything your business values stand for. Starbucks handled their crisis quickly and aggressively and essentially shocked the system. Shutting down operations is a bold statement that leaves no doubt that management is serious about making changes. Not only did they make an aggressive statement but they put their money where their mouth is.
Starbucks lost out on an estimated $12 million dollars in revenue as a result of shutting down for an afternoon. They are sending out a message that some things are more important than money. This action will solidify their relationships with their customers and employees. It shows that the company cares for more than the bottom line. For business leaders, growth, change, and accountability are mandatory. Nothing can improve without change and Starbucks made a bold statement to ensure change and improvement.
Leadership is about transparency and honesty and Starbucks proved that those ideals are important when running a successful business. They didn’t try to blame anyone else and they didn’t ignore the situation. They saw an opportunity for growth and development and they took it. Their unconventional method of shutting down the stores shows that they take responsibility for the situation. They were honest and reaffirmed their core values. Their actions show strong leadership and are methods any great leader can learn from.