Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Whole Foods: Another Leader Seduced by Success!

Whole Foods was founded in 1980 by its current Chairman and CEO and for three decades was the preeminent organic grocery brand.  It was quite successful as consumers began to crave organic and natural foods.   For years Whole Foods was able to command significantly higher prices for its organic alternatives.

It now appears that the world has not only caught up with Whole Foods but seems to be passing it by.  Its stock price has lost almost half its value over the past three years and average sales at stores open more than a year have slipped for six straight quarters as low-cost rivals such as Kroger and Walmart have moved into the market for natural and organic products, with 20-30% lower prices for identical items versus Whole Foods.

So what is the Founder and still CEO of Whole Foods doing these days given that Whole Foods is being attacked by these two giants?  He is on a book tour, hawking his new book called The Whole Foods Diet.  What he is prescribing is a diet consisting mostly of plants while avoiding meat and processed food.  He strongly argues that this will help fight chronic ailments such as diabetes and obesity

While the CEO lays out a cure for America’s health woes, investors are questioning whether Whole Foods can be fixed.  Basically, with all of the downwardly spiraling financial trends associated with the company, he seems to be doing nothing to respond.

A few years ago I published a book called Seduced by Success, outlining the various traps successful people often fall into.  In the case of the Founder/CEO of Whole Foods, here are the three traps that seems to have captured him:

1.) Pride – Success and stability seem to breed a loss of curiosity and a defensive attitude toward any kind of change.  Whole Foods is basically using the same business model it did over the past 37 years.

2.) Lack of Urgency – Success seems to lead to the avoidance of any kind of stress in favor of basking in the glory of prior times.  Clearly, with the Founder/CEO on a book tour, he’s not exhibiting any kind of paranoia.

3.) Entitlement Mentality – Once you achieve some degree of success or stability you tend to believe you will be successful forever.  Many individuals and organizations are so impressed with themselves and their achievements that they can no longer imagine a world where they are in decline.   In regard to the Whole Foods leader, he seems incapable of becoming concerned about their current crisis.

The above traps are wired into each and every human being.  Hence, the wise leader understands that the only alternative is to constantly focus on continual, significant change.

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