Magazine article Success

Best of SUCCESS: Leadership Lessons from Our First Five Years

Magazine article Success

Best of SUCCESS: Leadership Lessons from Our First Five Years

Article excerpt

YOU'RE READING an article that took five years to write--or more than 100, if you look at it another way.

Five years ago a small group of us worked long days that turned into early mornings to produce our first issue of SUCCESS. The April/May 2008 issue would re-launch the iconic brand founded more than a century earlier by Orison Swett Marden, a self-made entrepreneur, author and proponent of personal achievement.

While recent publishers had focused more on business, our aim, under the ownership of SUCCESS Partners, was to return the magazine to its roots, providing inspiring, motivational and instructive content. We'd still cover business, but the key was to make it as relevant and practical as possible for our entrepreneurial readers. And we'd still, do profiles of extraordinary people, but our focus wouldn't be so much on what they accomplished, but how they did it.

It's fitting that leadership is the theme of this fifth-anniversary issue because each of the people we've profiled over the years has been a leader in some capacity--CEOs, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and people who simply inspired. us with their bold actions.

Leading Through Turbulent Times

In the winter of 2010, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz met with writer John H. Ostdick in a SoHo Starbucks. Schultz had returned to run the company as CEO., and he was ready to share details about its transformation through particulary dark days.

Starbucks had become "a poster child for excess," Schultz told Ostdick for the April 2011 cover feature. "I sensed that our people had lost confidence and the organization had lost its swagger." He sought to reverse what he called the "cornmoditization of Starbucks," but first he had to stem the company's financial freefall. He rejected suggestions like reducing coffee quality and cutting employees' health care benefits. But dosing hundreds of stores and layoffs were inevi-table--and painful.

Schultz also ordered all 7,100 stores closed for retraining on a single evening in February 2010. "It was a shock to the system," he said, but it proved to be a "significant galvanizing moment inside the company where people realized, 'Not only is he back, but he's dead serious.'"

Not knowing where the bottom was in the spiraling economy, Schultz's leadership style continued to evolve. "I was effectively balancing. entrepreneurial vision with patience of execution, paying the same degree of attention to the back end of the business that I was hard-wired to pay to the front end."

Along the way, he laid out his plans in so-called Transformation Memos to all employees. "Some of the things I wrote about in the memos were that we were not going to let other people define us, that we could control our own destiny--not by just saying that we were going to but by doing the work," he said.

While some criticized him for expressing vulnerability, "I had an intuitive sense I had to be real." Schultz believed it was important to articulate his vision, and to remain transparent to restore confidence and to engage every employee in the fight. Starbucks also used social media to communicate the company's message to consumers.

The turning point came in the fall of 2010, when Schultz announced healthy fiscal-year earnings, cash bonuses to 100,000 people in the field, enhancements to the 40100 plan, retention of health care for employees and new tuition reimbursement benefits.

"These are very emotional days," he said. "This has been my life's work, as opposed to a job. I didn't come back to save the company--I hate that description--I came back to rekindle the emotion that. built it."

Another big comeback we wrote about involved Ford Motor Co.'s return to profitability under the leadership of CEO Alan Mulally. In a September 2011 profile, Jim Henry and Jim Motavalli wrote that Mulally remade Ford's disparate and undisciplined management into an effective team that, starting in 2006, rebuilt a fleet of gas guzzlers into an all-new product line of right-sized cars and trucks well-suited for a competitive world market. …

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