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Howard Schultz Calls This Business Book Author His 'Mentor'

In an exclusive interview with Entrepreneur at SXSW, the former Starbucks CEO shares which author and organizational consultant influenced him.


Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz didn't become a billionaire overnight.

Jim Bennett | Getty Images

Starting in 1982, Schultz spent decades leading the coffee chain from fewer than 10 locations to almost 30,000. He expanded the company's brand footprint to 77 countries, according to Schultz. Along the way, he built up an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.

But more recently -- over the past six weeks, to be exact -- Schultz has ignited widespread backlash for his controversial decision to consider an independent presidential run in 2020. Entrepreneur spoke with him about his negative polling data at SXSW 2019 in Austin, Tex. -- and, on a separate note, his advice for fledgling entrepreneurs.

Related: Exclusive: Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Disputes the Polling on His Chances for Success at the Presidency

When asked about his favorite business literature, Schultz recommended all the books organizational consultant and bestselling author Warren Bennis wrote on leadership.

"He was, before he passed away, a mentor of mine -- a friend," Schultz said.

Entrepreneur compiled a list of Bennis's most popular books via the "popularity" sorting tool on his Amazon author page. Read on for the top five.

On Becoming a Leader (Warren Bennis)

Widely regarded as Bennis's most popular book, On Becoming a Leader still appears on list after list of the best business tomes 20 years after its original publish date. In it, he writes: "The leader never lies to himself, especially about himself, knows his flaws as well as his assets, and deals with them directly."

Douglas McGregor, Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (Gary Heil, Warren Bennis and Deborah C. Stephens)

Management theory guru Douglas McGregor championed a mindset that many modern companies aim to adopt: that employees are human beings, not just cogs in a machine. In this book, Bennis and his co-authors analyze McGregor's trains of thought and update them for the modern day, outlining how business leaders can create a workplace worthy of employee loyalty.

Related: 'Success Is Not an Entitlement; You Have to Earn it Every Day,' Howard Schultz Says

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration (Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman)

In Organizing Genius, Bennis and his co-author outline the most vital ingredients for creative collaboration -- as well as actionable advice for any organization looking to supercharge collaboration amongst its leaders. Bennis wrote the introduction in 1996 and called the book "part history, part how-to manual [and] part meditation on why a few groups rise to greatness while most flounder."

Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls (Noel M. Tichy and Warren Bennis)

The fate of an entire company can depend on the judgment of its leaders, according to Bennis and his co-author. In Judgment, the two men -- who have spent decades studying leadership and mentoring CEOs -- outline a guide for making pivotal judgment calls no matter how high the stakes. The book also includes interviews with business leaders who have personal experience making a high-stakes judgment call, such as former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley and former Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson.

Transparency (Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman and James O'Toole with Patricia Ward Biederman)

In Transparency, Bennis and his co-authors unpack the buzzword and explore what it means to promote and hinder the practice of candor in business. The book offers advice on how to create a culture of honesty in any organization, as well as how leaders too often serve as a roadblock in the healthy flow of information at a company.

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