John Mackey: Capitalism With A Conscience



John Mackey is the visionary founder of Whole Foods Market which today employs 90,000 people, has 500 stores in America, the UK & Canada & generates $22 billion in annual sales.

Mackey started the well-known natural foods grocery chain 44 years ago in Austin, Texas – & a few years ago sold it to Amazon which operates it today.

John has just published what amounts to an autobiography – & it’s really the story of how a college dropout had the vision to launch an organic foods store just as consciousness about what people wanted to put in their bodies was radically shifting.

In his highly entertaining new book, The Whole Story: Adventures in Love, Life, and Capitalism, Mackey not only describes his journey in building Whole Foods from the ground up – & leading it as CEO for four decades – he describes a leadership philosophy that remains extraordinarily uncommon in business today.

He all but coined the term, “conscious leadership” which essentially considers purpose, people & the planet in running a business. His philosophy isn’t sentimental, but rather is a commitment to the well-being of all stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, the environment – and, oh yes, shareholders.

Throughout his book, Mackey repeatedly stresses that he is a highly competitive capitalist.  But his leadership philosophy is tied to a spiritual understanding that virtues like trust, empathy, care, authenticity, integrity – even love – produce far better outcomes than traditional leadership practices ever could.

In reviewing his book recently, the Wall Street Journal – not surprisingly – called John Mackey “peculiar” as a business CEO. Notably, they also went on to say “the world could use more of his kind.”

In what proved to be a moving & inspiring conversation, we asked Mackey to reflect upon all he’s learned on successfully leading human beings in the workplace, not to mention his views on maintaining personal & employee well-being. We didn’t let him go until he shared his feelings on how Amazon changed Whole Food’s culture after he left. His answer is likely to surprise you & enlighten you!

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.