Monday, July 14, 2014

Business Leadership Wading into Partisanship in Politics: Howard Schultz of Starbucks

In 2011, the Huffington Post reported the following. “Howard Schultz is calling on his fellow CEOs—and other would-be donors—to boycott all campaign contributions to either party until the nation's elected leaders put aside their political posturing and find some common ground on long-term fiscal issues. Schultz wrote in a widely distributed email dated Monday that, like ‘so many common-sense Americans,’ he wants elected leaders to consider ‘all options, from entitlement programs to taxes,’ and reach a wide-ranging budget deal ‘long before the deadline arrives this fall.’ Schultz concluded with a promise: ‘We today pledge to withhold any further campaign contributions to the President and all members of Congress until a fair, bipartisan deal is reached that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing.’”[1] The CEO was essentially preaching his political ideology wherein “partisan and ideological purity” are not permitted to trump the “well-being of the people.” James Madison would have been proud, though perhaps a bit confounded as to why the CEO of a large company would venture out of his daily routine to make a sort of campaign speech. In a positive sense, the business executive’s vision was one of “collective confidence in each other” and “in our ability to solve problems together.”[2] This is a good example of a leadership vision being applied to the societal level by an organizational leader. This intangible asset comes, however, with its own risks and difficulties, which the aspiring business leader is well advised to consider.

This diagram comes out of my dissertation, which formulates the theory and applies it to cases cross-culturally. (Image Source: S. Worden)

Material from this essay has been incorporated into The Essence of Leadership: A Cross-Cultural Foundation, which is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. 

1. Froomkin, D. “Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Calls For Boycott on Campaign Contributions,” The Huffington Post, August 15, 2011.
2. Ibid.