Leaders Stand When It’s Easier to Sit

A CEO Stands Up

Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz cancelled a speaking engagement that would have given him and Starbucks a lot of visibility – over 1000 in the live audience and 150,000 more across 40 nations, by way of live video broadcast.

Starbucks CEO - Howard Schultz

For What?

According to change.org, Willow Creek Church in Chicago, host of the Leadership Conference, has a “long anti-gay history” and has “practiced dangerous conversion therapy to ‘cure’ people of their sexual orientation.” (ToledoBlade.com)

What Would We Do?

Would I pass on such an opportunity based on a clash of values? Would I take a stand? Would you?

What if company CEOs had refused to make parts for gas chambers?

What if I only did business with companies that have women in executive leadership roles and on their boards?

Your Turn

What if ________________ .

What if ________________ .

What if ________________ .

Please add your “What ifs” to the comment section.

What’s Our Excuse?

Schultz and Starbucks are big enough already. They don’t need this or any other stage to be successful.

If I had what Schultz has I’d stand up too.

I’m just a little fish trying to stay alive in the pond.

One little person like me can’t make a difference.

The Bottom Line on What Leaders Do

Much is written about what leaders do and what attributes they display.

But let’s be clear – Leaders lead. They draw a line about what’s in and what’s out.

They take a stand – popular or not.

That is both the top and the bottom line on leading.

If you don’t do this YOU ARE NOT LEADING.

You may have followers. You may have an organization at your disposal. You may even have a stage upon which to speak.


Don’t mis-take being popular for being a Leader.

Don’t mis-take the fact that people are listening for the fact that you are leading.

Don’t mis-take compromising your values for leading.

Don’t mis-take sitting when called to stand for leading.

Who’s Leading?

Nelson Mandela – who needs no introduction.

Martin Luther King – who also needs no introduction and is still leading posthumously.

Nancy Wake – saved 100s during the holocaust and became one of the Gestapo’s Most Wanted.

Howard Schultz – Starbuck’s CEO

Your Turn

Please add you stand up leaders with a word or two about how they stand up to lead.

P.S. You can read Willow Creek’s response to Schultz’s cancellation here.

Other items of interest:

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12 Responses to Leaders Stand When It’s Easier to Sit

  1. Sharon Eden August 17, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

    The Asian father whose son was killed by a car ramming when they were protecting their property in the recent London riots. He made a stand for integrity and honour by calling for calm and no retribution from anyone. When the media present harangued him for information, he made a stand for ‘right relationship’ by refusing to co0operate and saying, “Come on… I’ve just lost my son!”

    He stood as a leader of men with dignity even in the face of his dreadful loss; an exemplar for Inner Leadership.
    Sharon Eden recently posted…Live by vision… Am I crazy???My Profile

    • Anne August 18, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      Sharon – Thank you for your comment. You inspired a search for the Stand Up Leader whose name is Tariq Jahan. He was born in Pakistan and is quoted in a newspaper as saying, “I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites: We all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home, please.” He also appears at a Peace gathering recorded on YouTube where his words begin “I am no one.” A humble courageous man. A leader who stands up. And all of this while grieving the death of his son. He is

  2. Ann Lewis August 18, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    What if… leaders always challenged bullying behaviour in their workplace and refused to indulge in it themselves?

    My stand up leader (and remember you don’t have to have a title to be a leader), Eva James, aka @bulliedbyboss, who stood up to appalling bullying at work and is now writing a self-help book for all targets of bullying.

  3. Eva James August 18, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Thanks Ann, that’s so generous of you, especially after being so absolutely instrumental in my journey!

    My stand up leader is Prof Philip Zimbardo, who has spent his life undertaking groundbreaking research into abuses. He called for this exact thing; for people to stand up for what is right.

    A true leader is simply anyone who leads by example. As the famous quote goes “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”.
    Eva James recently posted…bulliedbyboss: @liontornado That’s not a syndrome – it’s an epidemic 🙂My Profile

    • Anne August 18, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      Clarification to all readers. Eva is thanking Ann Lewis.
      And thanks Eva for paying it forward from Ann -> you -> Prof Zimbardo

  4. Bret L Simmons (@drbret) August 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    I attended that conference via sat satellite, Ann. It’s the best leadership conference I’ve ever attended. Patrick Lencioni replaced Shultz and he might be one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m glad you posted the link to Bill Hyble’s response to Schultz backing out, because his response showed a lot of leadership. Schultz missed a great conference!

    • Anne August 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

      Bret – Good to see you here again. It was your tweet about buying a starbucks coffee at Bill’s suggestion that got me interested in reading more about the conference and Schultz’s decision. I’m pleased about the very respectful views being shared. Thanks

  5. Michael Perry August 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    What if leaders actually checked out the facts about other organizations and not be swayed by politically movitated distortions of the truth? Unfortunately as much as I appreciate both Howard Schultz and Starbucks I think that’s what happened in this case. The 1000’s of faith communities world wide who attended this conference representing millions of people many who are part of the Starbucks global family missed the opportunity to see their corporate leader have a voice in their faith communities. The reality is most of these faith communities, including Willow Creek, share way more values with Starbucks than disagreements. Not sure I can agree this was a good example of couragous leadership, more like mis informed leadership.

    • Anne August 19, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

      Michael -Thanks for commenting.
      I cannot speak for Howard Schultz, but before publishing this post, I did some checking about Willow Creek and discovered they do ascribe to curing homosexuals, which implies some sort of wrongness or a disease state. Please provide information that might inform otherwise, if the sources I checked are incorrect.

      Starbucks diversity statement follows:
      “Starbucks is dedicated to creating a workplace that values and respects people from diverse backgrounds, and enables its employees to do their best work. We honor the unique combination of talents, experiences and perspectives of each partner, making Starbucks success possible.

      As such we expect our partners to act with a spirit of kinship, tolerance and humanity toward all customers making our brand welcoming to everyone.”

      Sometimes individuals and companies decide that one issue is worth making a stand, regardless of agreement on other issues. Again, I cannot speak for Howard Schultz or Starbucks, but I do wonder if in this is case with Schultz’s decision to pass on the speaking engagement at Willow Creek.

  6. Alan Zimmerman September 22, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Great Article. I always find that the best leaders bring out the best in others. I always tell my clients that a positive attitude is everything to your success as a leader.


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