Howard Behar

Former President and Board Member, Starbucks Corporation


Behar led Starbuck’s domestic business as President of North America for 21 years before becoming founding President of Starbucks International, opening the very first store outside of North America in Japan. During his tenure, he participated in the growth of the company from only 28 stores to over 15,000 stores spanning five continents.  He served on the Starbucks Board of Directors for twelve years before retiring. Howard now serves on the boards of several for-profit and non-profit organizations. After the successful publication of his first book, It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Leadership from a Life at Starbucks (Portfolio, 2008), Howard travels the world speaking to leaders, corporations, and students. His motivational message inspires everyone to be servant leaders and to lead with their values first.


"Treat everyone as a human being. Inspire the human spirit in each person I meet.” Raised in a family of immigrant parents from Bulgaria, Howard’s early life was shaped by his experience working in his parents’ Seattle supermarket. With one year of junior college but a voracious appetite for learning, Howard’s life philosophy was based on serving people as human beings, not as customers. Throughout his career, Howard put to practice the values his father taught him in their family supermarket.

Why Committed:

I’ve learned that leadership isn’t really about others. It’s first about self.  Learning to lead yourself is the most important journey any of us can be on.  Until we are able to do that effectively we really are not able to help anyone else. It took me lots of years and many mentors to finally get to know myself.  Being a part of the Center, I can help others shorten that time frame.  It’s a real privilege for me to be part of this team and this effort!