Can Schultz put the buzz back in Starbucks coffee?

It’s happening again – another founder returning to the helm when things aren’t going well. Can Schultz do for Starbucks what Jobs has done for Apple?

Today’s Wall Street Journal (January 8, 2008) notes that Schultz plans to improve the customer experience and streamline management. His objectives include “re-igniting the emotional attachment with customers.” Sure sounds like culture to me.

One of the most common challenges with the transition from the founding CEO to his replacement is that the culture has developed around the CEO’s personality, style, and values. Some of that may be conscious and explicit but much of it “just happens.” The organization often isn’t aware of the specific assets and liabilities of the culture until well into the transition to the new CEO.

In the case of Starbucks, some of the internal practices (aka culture) that made Starbucks a huge success slowly drifted away under new leadership. Like Jobs at Apple, Schultz has a distinct style, his mojo, that helped make the organization successful. Can he reignite the organization with that style? My bet would be yes, he can. And that’s a solid start to getting the numbers back on track.

How is your personal leadership style reflected in the way your organization does business? If you had a “culture balance sheet,” what would your assets and liabilities be?