The Unforgivables Most Leaders Get Wrong

The Unforgivables Most Leaders Get Wrong

In the year 1988, there was a small and struggling company that couldn’t quite find its way in the world. It was purchased for $3.6M by a man and group of investors that had big dreams and a great vision for the company. Fast forward to today. The little struggling company went on to expand to 10,000 stores in 75 countries and has one of the most recognizable brands. Can you guess the company?

If you guessed Starbucks, you’re correct. The man was Howard Schultz and Starbucks transformation can be attributed to Schultz’s leadership.

“Success is empty if you arrive at the finish line alone. The best reward is to get there surrounded by winners.” – Howard Schultz

Starbucks is a perfect example of what is possible when a leader gets the formula right. They set themselves up with a foundation to be successful that gives their people a fighting chance — not only to be successful but to be fulfilled in the work that they do.

Here’s the formula Schultz attributes his success to:

  1. Start with a vision and core purpose of being
  2. Know success is best when it’s shared
  3. Create a culture and set of values where people feel they are a part of something larger than themselves
  4. Treat people with great respect
  5. Exceed the expectation of your people so they exceed the expectation of your customers.

After studying Schultz and interviewing other successful leaders on the Follow My Lead Podcast, we’ve identified our own list – a formula called the “Unforgivables”. These are a list of things, which under no circumstance can a leader be forgiven for lack of. They simply must get these things right. The list consists of 8 core elements and here is a brief description of each:


People in organizations don’t get burned out because of the work they do, they get burned out because they forget WHY they do the work they do.Purpose driven teams continually outperform companies that lack purpose. Purpose is knowing, WHY you do what you do.


Having a mission that the team is willing to buy into and agree on will ensure your team is fulfilled – which ultimately impacts their performance over time. It follows a simple formula. We do X in order to achieve Y for Z.


Vision is clearly important in leadership but it doesn’t have to be complicated. It boils down to, a clear goal and a completion date.


There are many different strategies to getting results, but which will get you there the fastest, most efficient way with the best outcome? Answer: by having a well thought out strategy that’s nimble enough to change based on the current environment.


Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what’s important in life. We all believe values are important to have as individuals, but they are just as important for the team.


Beliefs are judgments – things a team believes to be true or fact. Sometimes beliefs become very strongly entrenched or emotional. In this way, beliefs can influence our behaviors, even our thoughts, in very powerful ways.

Leaders will be forgiven for a lot of things because they are human just like everyone but getting the “unforgivables” wrong, is something I am just not sure they should be forgiven for.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, a contributing editor on, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.