As Starbucks’ new CEO, Kevin Johnson isn’t only taking the reigns of one of world’s most iconic brands, he’s also taking over for one of America’s most famous business leaders.
In an interview with Business Insider, Johnson called his predecessor Howard Schultz “the iconic merchant of my generation.”
Despite the legacy he’s taking on, Johnson’s biggest advice for young people is all about being yourself.
“It’s important to be comfortable being authentic,” Johnson said. “I probably didn’t learn that until later in my career.”
Johnson, who took over as CEO on April 3 after three years serving as the company’s chief operating officer and a long career in tech, says that being authentic allows people to do their best work.
“Being authentic means you have to be vulnerable,” Johnson said. “I think everyone on the planet shares in the same set of human experiences. We’ve all experienced joy and sorrow, we’ve experienced the struggle of trying to achieve something and the challenges of overcoming obstacles. And, I think sometimes as you get older in life and more experienced, you’re more comfortable acknowledging in an authentic way some of the vulnerabilities.”
For Johnson, a clarifying moment in figuring out the importance of authenticity came when he was diagnosed with melanoma several years ago.
“That sort of prompts you to step back and say, ‘what’s really important in life?'” he said. “At that moment, I decided for the rest of my life, I only want to spend my time on things that are joyful with people I love. That’s a liberating thing.”