Starbucks CEO fails leadership test

Over on his blog , Tyler Braun states he was at the Global Leadership Summit last week when Willow Creek’s Bill Hybel’s announced that Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz canceled his appearance at the last minute because some 700 people had signed a petition stating that Willow Creek Community Church is anti-gay, which Hybels says is absolutely not true.

Oh. Brother.

See. This is where I part ways with the Gay agenda. I just don’t support bullying in any form — be it from the Church toward the Gays or visa-versa. When someone whines to me about how marginalized the LGBT community is these days, I remind them how much political and financial clout the Gay community has been able to marshall. I’m sorry. I get that Gays have been wrongfully mistreated but I don’t think the answer to correcting that is to then turn around and mistreat others and call it all fairness or equality.

As my wise mama used to say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Hybels says something in his talk that echoes much truth, I think, especially in light of some of the discussions we’ve been having. Hybels says we’ve become a culture that “Throws stones first and asks questions later.

Morever, he said, “We see this in our political system and it’s rapidly making our country ungovernable. Jesus taught a better way.”

Now Hybels goes on to encourage people to buy Howard Schultz’s book on leadership titled Onward. I haven’t yet read it, so I can’t recommend it one way or another. Hybels, however, said he read it four times and is a better leader because of it.

But I wonder — how much leadership does a man display when he allows 700 people online to bully him into backing out of a contractual commitment?

Or 70,000, for that matter?

And where is the win in this for the LGBT community?

Bullying might change a person’s behavior but rarely does it change their convictions. You’d think if anyone would refuse to participate in bullying as a means of compulsion, it would be the LGBT community. Shame on everyone who signed that pathetic petition.

Shame on Shultz, too.

Instructing others on building a winning brand, Schultz advises: “Whatever you do, don’t play it safe. Don’t do things the way they’ve always been done. Don’t try to fit the system. If you do what’s expected of you, you’ll never accomplish more than others expect.”

Looks like he needs to take a page from his own playbook.

It would seem to me that Howard Schultz took the safe route, and in so doing, he failed to lead in this instance.

Your thoughts?

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  • The victim mentality has overtaken our culture. It’s embedded in the way we think. You have highlighted but one of countless examples.

  • Tarry

    I think I can honestly say I see both sides.

    I think there is way too much name calling and far too few attempts to understand. I think silencing others and taking your marbles and leaving the game is almost always wrong. I couldn’t fathom why people would drop their subscriptions to Sojourners on a related matter. And I wouldn’t sign this petition.


    When I hear Christians use the phrase “gay agenda” it makes me a little nervous. Likely they wouldn’t use the term “woman agenda” or “Black agenda.” “The gays” is a similar nebulous category. (“The women” “the Blacks”–hear it?) The political and financial clout of “the gay community” you speak of means nothing to the gay teenager who is packing her bags because her parents won’t speak to her. She hasn’t got much of an agenda either.

    And it is sympathy for that young person which explains why I get this — though I wouldn’t have signed, I get it. I get why, in people’s anger, they want to employ “any means necessary” to marginalize voices that are either rabidly anti-gay, or even wobbly, “we don’t hate the sinner, we love them.” I get why some people think if they can take people like Hybels off the mainstream speakers list, they can marginalize any attitude less than full acceptance of LGBT persons. They might want churches that preach anything less than full acceptance to be as culturally marginal as churches that won’t let Black people through the door. And make no mistake, I think they see the struggle as exactly the same, morally.

    And that won’t happen if people like Hybels get their picture taken next to people like Howard Schultz. It won’t happen if Rick Warren has a seat at the table in national and international power places either.

    Some people are just angry. Some people are working out their own stuff. Your post with the Madeleine L’Engle quote was profound on this matter. But assuming that some people who signed that petition may be motivated by a real conviction that what needs to change is our cultural sense of what is “normal” — I think I understand why they don’t want Hybels in this illustrious mix.

    Now critiquing their position is another matter. I’ve only got as far as understanding, I think.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I would use Woman agenda or Black agenda if they had employed the same tactics to manipulate people, the way this group did with Schultz. Hybels was the better leader. Schultz showed a lack of backbone and those who signed the petition acted out in the very ways that they condemn others for. Intolerant would be the word of the day here.

  • Larry Wishard

    Bill Hybels has taken a clear position. He follows Jesus.
    Who does Howard Shultz follow? We don’t know. Bill admitted that their fellowship accepts all who want to learn of Jesus. This response to the events seems to be a good modeling of Jesus’ way. There are many mega church pastors who have gotten off track as my son’s book, Redemption Avenue, explains, but Hybels is on track here.

  • Dan McCarty

    The thought that came through my mind when Hybels made the announcement was the principle that we’ve held strongly to in the US regarding security, namely “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” and how the Starbucks board spinelessly (it seems) worried about losing 717 possible customers who presumably are hiding behind anonymity. Wow, what next will this group of 717 petition? Kudos to Hybels for offering to meet with them and hear them out.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yes, Hybels displayed real leadership. Schultz should take lessons.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I agree with your remarks, Dan. I think Hybels was the better leader in all of this. And I think Schultz knows he displayed poor leadership skills and even less integrity. Even so, I hate this sort of bullying from any corner. Politics in America has resorted to the lowest common denominator.

  • The gay community always promotes “Tolerance,” except for the people they disagree with.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      As is the case with most any community.

  • Matt

    I really appreciated the way Hybels handled this. I read the petition and its pretty lame, but I think calling all this “bullying” is a stretch especially since you draw the comparison to the kind of bullying folks in the LGBTQ community have endured. Perhaps Schultz has a strong conviction about this as well and either: a) felt he would have had to denounce the church and didn’t want to be rude OR b) didn’t have time to really investigate the claims. We can’t assume he was “bullied.”

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Matt: I think Hybels was the better leader in this than Schultz. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that was bullying was the tactic used on Schultz. Calling for a boycott of a business because you don’t like the audience a businessman is speaking before is bullying in my book. Perhaps you have a more fitting term you are comfortable with. Bullying works for me. And it’s disappointing, really, that any part of the LGBT community would feel the need to circulate such a petition and call for such a boycott. Asher Huey of Washington DC circulated the petition via Change.Org, and is now declaring “Victory.” Whatever.