What does Starbucks have to do with school?

By October 1, 2014 No Comments
Disclaimer: I'm not biased toward any coffee chain. I just love my morning cup of feel-good.

Disclaimer: I’m not biased toward any coffee chain. I just love my morning cup of feel-good.

A leader’s role in developing teams is of utmost importance for the school’s success.  By accepting the role as a building principal, I am also accepting the role as the leader of a team.  Howard Schultz, owner of Starbucks, says this, “Today, my role is to be Starbucks’ leader, its visionary, cheerleader, and keeper of the flame” (Maxwell 100). That one sentence easily summarizes the job of a team leader or building principal.  Having the right leader is only part of the success to the organization.  That leader must find the right people for each team.  This boils down to The Law of the Niche, which means, “All players have a place where they add the most value,” (Maxwell 28).

A building leader wants all of the teachers and staff to be team players.  I strongly believe in utilizing “in-house talent”.  I don’t want to look for outside consultants or trainers if I have someone on staff who is passionate and knowledgeable in the same area.  The key is getting to know those teachers and staff by first building authentic relationships.  Maxwell points out that to put people in the right places you must: 1. know the team, 2. know the situation, and 3. know the player (35).

Once the right team is established, then the principal’s role needs to continue to be keeping people focused on the vision.  This can be managed by setting a timeline and goals to work towards along the way.  The leader keeps people engaged by celebrating each victory as it is reached.  The team members will need that “cheerleader” to keep them excited and energized after the initial high has worn off.  By attracting people who care about the mission (i.e. revamping the remediation efforts, implementing digital devices, changing the high ability program), the leader most likely has players who see the vision.  Without the leader painting the big picture, the team will lose the desire to work towards accomplishing the common goals (Maxwell 21).

The stakeholders need to feel involved and important in everyday matters of school success.  If the leader fosters a shared vision and the team members take ownership in that vision, then they will work harder toward achieving the goals mutually established (Rubin 11).  By putting the right people on the right teams, keeping the vision in front of them, and communicating progress, the building principal can drive school success.

And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to show up to team meetings with lattes and cappuccino!  Bonus tip: A good leader analyzes the relationship between the size of coffee and time of the meeting, and provides accordingly.





Maxwell, J. (2001). The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Rubin, H. (2009). Collaborative Leadership (2nd ed.). Retrieved from