Effective Leadership Styles, Traits and Qualities


Effective leadership is an important factor to guarantee the success of an organization and employees’ satisfaction. Therefore, researchers and practitioners pay much attention to determining specific leadership styles, traits, attributes, and behaviors that can contribute to leaders’ effectiveness in different situations (Rowe, 2014; Rubin, 2013). The purpose of this paper is to discuss what particular leadership styles, traits, qualities, attributes, characteristics, and behaviors are important for influencing leaders’ effectiveness with reference to the leadership style followed by Howard Schultz, as well as with reference to the personal approach to developing leadership skills. Schultz is selected to be discussed as an example of an effective leader in this paper because this former CEO of Starbucks is famous for his transformational leadership style, and only a few CEOs can successfully implement the principles of transformational leadership in their practice (Choudhary, Akhtar, & Zaheer, 2013). Although there are several leadership styles, many researchers distinguish only between transactional leadership and transformational leadership, and the focus of this paper is on analyzing Schultz’s leadership style, attributes, and characteristics in the context of these two leadership types and with reference to their appropriateness for the sphere of business, as well as on discussing my personal leadership style.

Findings and Discussion

Analysis of Howard Schultz’s Leadership Style, Traits, and Behaviors

Howard Schultz is known as the former CEO of Starbucks, who is currently taking the position of the executive chairman in this organization. Starbucks was established in 1971, and in the 1980s, Schultz purchased the brand and company (Jianfei, 2014). It is important to note that, for a long period of time, Starbucks coffee shops served customers only in the United States, but Schultz developed the corporation and opened more than 6,000 coffee shops worldwide (Jianfei, 2014; Lemus, Von Feigenblatt, Orta, & Rivero, 2015). Currently, Starbucks is among leaders in this specific market, and it is a result of Schultz’s leadership. Furthermore, his specific leadership style contributed to developing Starbucks as one of the most attractive workplaces for employees over the globe.

Researchers and experts in management and business are inclined to define Schultz’s leadership style as transformational one. According to the modern approach to the leadership theory, transactional and transformational leadership styles are key ones to characterize modern leaders’ behaviors and strategies (Deichmann & Stam, 2015; Jianfei, 2014). From this point, transactional leaders are primarily managers who concentrate on organizing processes, supervising, and assessing performance. Transformational leaders are focused on orienting, motivating, and inspiriting employees to achieve higher strategic goals. Therefore, transactional leadership is often associated with managerial leadership, and transformational leadership is also known as visionary (Rowe, 2014). While following another classification, it is possible to identify autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, participative leadership, strategic leadership, team-oriented leadership, and laissez-faire leadership, but these styles seem not to reflect the quality of leadership proposed by Schultz.

While being a transformational leader, Schultz is concentrated on the company’s strategies, innovation, creativity, and change, as well as on employees’ and customers’ needs, interests, attitudes, and feelings. Transformational leaders are always oriented to exceeding expectations of people with whom they work (Mittal & Dhar, 2015). Thus, while being focused on creativity and innovation, Schultz creates a unique environment in the workplace, where employees can support each other, and in a coffee shop, where customers can feel comfortable, communicate, and develop their interactions. All these efforts are associated with this leader’s orientation to achieving strategic goals (Lemus et al., 2015; Rowe, 2014). If needs of employees in Starbucks are addressed, they are ready to focus on innovation and respond to customers’ expectations, and as a result, strategic goals associated with increasing the number of customers and improving their experience become met.

In addition, a transformational leadership style is connected with motivating and inspiring people to accept changes or promote innovation. Thus, transformational leaders have perfect communication and motivation skills, and they can inspire people to accept different situations while encouraging them and demonstrating the way to succeed (Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy, 2014). In the context of Starbucks and other organizations where Schultz took or currently takes leading positions, he is focused on accentuating people’s strengths and abilities. While paying much attention to studying needs of employees and customers, Schultz can propose options to address all parties or stakeholders while motivating them. When Starbucks reported losses in its revenues, Schultz and his successors were able to motivate employees to optimize their resources and cooperate in order to overcome a problematic situation (Lemus et al., 2015). In spite of experienced problems, the atmosphere in the company remains to be positive and stimulating to achieve the set strategic goals.

It is also important to analyze specific traits, characteristics, and attributes typical of Schultz that help him be one of the most effective leaders in the sphere of business, and the market of coffee shops in particular. According to Shahhosseini, Silong, and Ismaill (2013), a good transformational leader should demonstrate the interest in followers’ needs, feelings, and expectations, and he should also be honest, supportive, and reflective. While analyzing Schultz’s traits and characteristics from this perspective, it is possible to state that reflection in the form of analyzing one’s activities and decisions and empathy in the form of demonstrating interest in other people’s feelings are strengths of Schultz’s character (Eisner, 2016; Jianfei, 2014). He is able not only to accept his wrong decisions and analyze causes of problematic situations but also to focus on thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and attitudes of other people. These traits and qualities help Schultz develop as a people-oriented leader who can be both frank and reflective in relation to himself and his followers or subordinates.

Furthermore, traits and characteristics that help leaders become effective also include respect for other people, morality, and honesty. Schultz is among those leaders who equally respect shareholders, employees, and customers. As a result, he is not interested in demonstrating his domination or knowledge, but he is focused on supporting other persons if they require assistance or advice. As a result, Schultz is not biased regarding hiring people with different backgrounds because of showing respect for their experience (Eisner, 2016). In Starbucks, much attention is paid to hiring right people in order to be able to build profitable relationships according to the company’s code of conduct (Jianfei, 2014). The main focus is on creating such corporate culture in the organization, according to which ethical values and qualities should become prioritized for people (Lemus et al., 2015). In order to achieve these results, Schultz accentuates the necessity of being honest with his employees and customers in order to be able to use individuals’ expertise to address possible issues or celebrate the success.

From this point, Schultz demonstrates the developed emotional intelligence while being oriented to different people. This excellent skill allows Schultz to develop interpersonal relationships in his company that are based on the principles of mutual understanding, support, and respect (Jianfei, 2014; Lemus et al., 2015). In addition, it is important to focus on the idea that Schultz is able to control his emotions in those situations when they can hurt other people, but in other cases, he behaves rather emotionally to emphasize his similarity to all persons with whom he collaborates (Eisner, 2016). This approach can be viewed as rather unique for the area of leadership.

Certain behaviors that are associated with Schultz’s leadership style should also be discussed in detail. Thus, as it was stated earlier, Schultz is always oriented to those people who work with him, and all employees in the company are referred to as partners (Eisner, 2016). From this point, Schultz is inclined to treat equally all employees and focus on their interests. All people in the company are respected and can feel and see support in spite of their backgrounds. Schultz pays much attention to not only organizing functional teams to unite employees while creating the area for cooperation and creativity but also to listening to employees in order to address their needs (Jianfei, 2014; Lemus et al., 2015). In this context, Schultz follows the principles of behavioral leadership theories, according to which his personal behavior can be adapted to expectations of employees and partners (Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013). This approach allows a leader to behave effectively with different people in various situations.

It is important to note that the main focus of Schultz’s behaviors is on creating relationships in the company that are based on the mutual trust and an open dialog. This principle is also promoted among managers to develop such atmosphere of support and trust in the whole company (Eisner, 2016; Lemus et al., 2015). Furthermore, Schultz’s leadership and associated behaviors combine “toughness, drive, total commitment, and focus with the softness to cry publically” (Eisner, 2016, p. 190). Thus, Schultz is interested in organizing cooperative teams, promoting their commitment, stimulating their drive and creativity, focusing on employees’ needs, and developing a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the company. From this point, all these specific behaviors and approaches allow for discussing Schultz as one of the most effective leaders in the sphere of business.

Analysis of the Personal Leadership Style, Traits, and Behaviors

At the current stage of my development as a leader, I have no enough experience to state what particular leadership style I follow. As I had no opportunities to perform as a manager or a supervisor, it is rather problematic for me to analyze my achievements in this field. However, I have certain experience of working as a leader in teams, and I also have some views regarding my further development and professional growth with the focus on the improvement of my leadership skills.

It is necessary to state that I share the idea that there are two key types of leaders who can be observed in workplaces: managerial or transactional leaders and visionary or transformational leaders. Thus, I should claim that almost each person starts to develop his or her leadership style with becoming a managerial leader who is good at delegating tasks, organizing processes, controlling procedures, and assessing results (Deichmann & Stam, 2015; Eisner, 2016; McCleskey, 2014). Another type of leaders is associated with being able to inspire and support employees (Pava & Caldwell, 2017). At the current stage, my leadership style is more associated with a transactional leadership approach. However, I also believe that to become a transformational leader, I need to overcome some barriers, perform specific steps, and develop skills of team-oriented and participative leaders.

Theoretical models that support my vision are behavioral leadership theories, according to which individuals can develop their leadership qualities in order to become successful in this sphere (Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy, 2014; Van Dierendonck, Stam, Boersma, De Windt, & Alkema, 2014). Therefore, I believe that, to become a transformational leader in the future, I need to improve my current leadership skills and focus on developing as a participative and team-oriented leader. From this perspective, the areas for my development to grow into an effective leader are the following ones: the communication with followers, the cooperation in a team, empathy, the ability to provide advice, the support for employees, and the understanding of followers’ needs and interests.

The first step to complete is to become a team-oriented leader and develop my skills in communication, motivation, and cooperation with individuals. Currently, I have developed communication skills, I can be characterized as a person who can organize the work in a team and set strategic goals for employees, and I am oriented to cooperation while interacting with team members as a person who can share experience and knowledge with other people to achieve the same goals. However, these traits and characteristics cannot be viewed as enough in order to grow and develop as a transformational leader in the future. More efforts are required to become mature in the field of leadership.

From this perspective, I need to develop skills in interacting with employees, motivating them, setting individual objectives, empowering people, and helping them develop their potential (Eisner, 2016; McCleskey, 2014; Shahhosseini et al., 2013). At the current stage, I can assist team members and support employees as a team-oriented leader, but I should pay more attention to developing skills in communication, collaboration, motivation, creativity, and inspiration (Eisner, 2016; Lephart & Kleiner, 2015). As a result, I will be able to establish a positive atmosphere of support and mutual understanding in the workplace, where all employees will feel like the part of one team, and they will be stimulated to do all possible in order to develop their own potential and contribute to an organization’s progress.

It is important to pay attention to the fact that participative leaders, as well as transformational leaders, are focused on needs, problems, interests, desires, and attitudes of their followers in order to help them adapt to certain situations and create comfortable and productive working environments. I have certain traits to become such a leader because I am rather person-oriented and sensitive. Moreover, I am always ready to help other people when they need some assistance. Therefore, I should focus on improving my skills in this area to become more empathetic and involved in followers’ activities, as well as interested in their perceptions, attitudes, and feelings. Furthermore, I will provide my employees with more power to participate in decision-making processes and influence the development of a company (Mittal & Dhar, 2015; Ruggieri & Abbate, 2013). From this point, while developing these traits, qualities, and skills, I will grow as an effective participative leader, and this will become the second step to my progress as a transformational leader.

However, it is important to note that participative leadership that is oriented to focusing on followers’ ideas, feelings, and thoughts is a managerial style, and to become a good leader, I need to develop these skills and behaviors with the focus on the principles of transformational leadership. Thus, one should focus on the idea that transformational leaders concentrate on empowering their employees and encouraging them to participate in decision-making and problem-solving processes (Deichmann & Stam, 2015; Pava & Caldwell, 2017; Van Dierendonck et al., 2014). As a result, I need to improve my skills of a good participate leader in order to develop then as an effective transformational leader because it is a long and complex process.

Furthermore, while analyzing my current leadership traits and behaviors, I can state that I also need to develop the following skills: integrity, honesty, openness, friendliness, creativity, passion, and inspiration. Firstly, to become a good transformational leader, I need to learn how to promote integrity in an organization. Secondly, I should learn how to be open and friendly toward employees in order to demonstrate that their needs, desires, and ideas are addressed (Pava & Caldwell, 2017; Rowe, 2014; Rubin, 2013; Van Dierendonck et al., 2014). In addition, I should promote moral values in an organization and become an example of an ethical leader for employees. It is also important to discuss the idea of emotional intelligence in this context and focus on the importance of being free of bias, as well as focused on diversity and equality (Lephart & Kleiner, 2015; Rowe, 2014; Rubin, 2013). It is critical for employees to feel protected in their organization, therefore, to become an effective leader, I also need to develop skills and behaviors associated with the promotion of integrity, equality, and respect for diversity in an organization.

While focusing on the necessity of demonstrating creativity, passion, and inspiration, I should state that I only take the first steps in this area because it is a complicated task for a leader to perform as a creative and inspirational person who can make people follow his or her vision or ideas. During a long period of time, I viewed leadership in the context of the Great Man theory and the trait theory of leadership. Thus, I believed that only those people who have such traits, attributes, and qualities as intelligence, charisma, flexibility, creativity, energy, and motivation can become effective leaders (Eisner, 2016; Nanjundeswaraswamy & Swamy, 2014; Van Dierendonck et al., 2014). However, this view that is based on a traditional theory of leadership can be discussed as inappropriate in the modern context.

Currently, I agree with the idea that each person can develop skills of a good leader, and even become a transformational leader, if he or she is oriented to this goal and learns what behaviors can lead to positive results in this area (Choudhary et al., 2013; Deichmann & Stam, 2015). Therefore, I believe that, being focused on becoming an effective leader, I will develop my skills and receive some knowledge and experience to grow as a transformational leader. From this point, I can state that I will be able to follow the example of Howard Schultz and other great front-runners in the sphere of business to grow as a leader and bring some change to the company where I work. More work and experience are required in order to improve my leadership style.


The purpose of this paper was to analyze leadership styles, traits, characteristics, and behaviors of selected leaders with the focus on Howard Schultz’s leadership style and personal leadership style. It was found that researchers traditionally distinguish between different types of leadership, but the main focus is on transactional and transformational types of leaders. According to this classification, Schultz can be characterized as a transformational leader, who is good at revealing employees’ potential, supporting individuals, motivating them, and inspiring employees to concentrate on accepting changes or on reaching set strategic goals.

The analysis of the personal leadership style and characteristics indicated that I am focused on becoming a transformational leader in the future. However, currently, I am at the stage of developing as a transactional leader who is aimed at improving skills associated with qualities of participative and team-oriented leaders in order to take the first steps to change the personal leadership style. Thus, to follow the example of Schultz and to become an effective leader in business, I need to develop my skills in communicating or interacting with people, cooperating in a team, becoming empathetic and sensitive, addressing people’s needs, providing advice and support, motivating, inspiring, demonstrating creativity and passion, and developing a positive working atmosphere based on following ethical values.


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