summer jelinek

Unlocking the Magic of Leadership: Insights from Doug Thorpe and Summer Jelinek

In a recent episode of the podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense,” host Doug Thorpe sat down with Summer Jelinek, a former restaurant and retail manager at Walt Disney World, to discuss the nuances of effective leadership. Drawing from her extensive experience in the hospitality industry and her time at Disney, Sommer shared invaluable insights on creating a magical workplace, understanding the evolving dynamics of leadership, and the importance of aligning with a company’s values and culture. This blog post delves into the key themes and actionable advice from their conversation, providing a comprehensive guide for leaders looking to enhance their leadership skills and create a positive impact on their teams.

The Magic of Leadership: Seeing and Developing Potential

Recognizing Individual Potential

One of the core themes discussed by Summer is the importance of leaders being able to see and develop the potential of their team members. Effective leadership goes beyond managing tasks; it involves nurturing the growth and development of individuals.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Conduct Regular One-on-One Meetings: Schedule consistent check-ins with team members to discuss their career aspirations, strengths, and areas for development.
    • Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer specific, actionable feedback that helps individuals understand their progress and areas for improvement.
    • Create Development Plans: Work with team members to create personalized development plans that align with their career goals and the organization’s objectives.

Creating a Positive and Impactful Experience

Drawing parallels between Disney’s approach to creating a magical experience for guests and the role of leaders in creating a positive workplace, Sommer emphasizes the significance of attention to detail and small actions.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Foster a Culture of Appreciation: Recognize and celebrate the contributions of team members regularly. Small gestures of appreciation can have a significant impact on morale and motivation.
    • Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback.
    • Lead by Example: Demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes you expect from your team. Your actions set the tone for the workplace culture.

Adapting to the New Workplace: Leading in a Changing Environment

Understanding the Changing Mindset of the Workforce

Sommer discusses the evolving dynamics of the workforce, particularly the impact of different generations and the need for leaders to adapt their leadership styles accordingly.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Embrace Flexibility: Recognize that different team members may have varying work preferences and needs. Offer flexible work arrangements where possible.
    • Promote Work-Life Harmony: Encourage a healthy balance between work and personal life. Understand that employees value their time outside of work and support their efforts to achieve harmony.
    • Stay Informed: Keep up with trends and changes in the workplace to better understand the needs and expectations of your team.

Empathy and Understanding in Leadership

In the post-pandemic era, leaders face new challenges as employees navigate new work arrangements and expectations. Empathy and understanding are crucial in this context.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Practice Active Listening: Pay close attention to what your team members are saying and show genuine interest in their concerns and ideas.
    • Show Compassion: Be understanding of the personal and professional challenges your team members may be facing. Offer support and resources to help them navigate these challenges.
    • Adapt Leadership Styles: Be willing to adjust your leadership approach based on the needs of your team. Flexibility and adaptability are key to effective leadership.

Aligning with Company Values and Culture

Finding the Right Fit

The conversation highlights the importance of aligning with a company’s values and culture. Recognizing when a role is not the right fit is crucial for both individuals and organizations.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Conduct Thorough Interviews: During the hiring process, assess candidates’ alignment with the company’s values and culture. Ask questions that reveal their attitudes and behaviors.
    • Promote Cultural Fit: Ensure that new hires understand and embrace the company’s values and culture from the outset. Provide onboarding programs that reinforce these principles.
    • Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage team members to reflect on their fit within the organization and provide opportunities for them to voice any concerns or misalignments.

Embracing Diversity and Individuality

Using the example of Hard Rock Cafe, Sommer emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and individuality in the workplace.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Celebrate Differences: Recognize and celebrate the unique contributions of each team member. Diversity brings a wealth of perspectives and ideas.
    • Create Inclusive Policies: Develop policies and practices that promote inclusivity and respect for all team members.
    • Leverage Individual Strengths: Identify and leverage the unique strengths and talents of each team member to enhance team performance and innovation.

Building and Sustaining a Successful Business

Understanding the Brand’s Vision and Purpose

For independent entrepreneurs, understanding the brand’s vision and purpose is essential for building and sustaining a successful business.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Define Your Vision: Clearly articulate the vision and purpose of your brand. Ensure that it resonates with both your team and your customers.
    • Stay True to Core Values: Consistently uphold the core values of your brand in all aspects of your business. This builds trust and loyalty among customers and employees.
    • Attract the Right People: Hire individuals who align with your brand’s values and vision. They will be more motivated and committed to contributing to the success of the business.

Seeking Mentorship and Coaching

Sommer concludes with the importance of seeking mentorship and coaching for guidance in navigating the complexities of leadership.

  • Actionable Advice:
    • Find a Mentor: Identify experienced leaders who can provide valuable insights and advice. Build a relationship based on mutual respect and learning.
    • Invest in Coaching: Consider professional coaching to enhance your leadership skills and address specific challenges.
    • Continuous Learning: Commit to ongoing learning and development. Stay open to new ideas and approaches to leadership.


The conversation between Doug Thorpe and Summer Jelinek offers a wealth of insights and actionable advice for leaders looking to create a positive and impactful workplace. By recognizing individual potential, adapting to the changing dynamics of the workforce, aligning with company values, embracing diversity, and seeking mentorship, leaders can unlock the magic of leadership and drive success for their teams and organizations. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or an aspiring one, these principles can guide you in your journey to becoming a more effective and empathetic leader.

Summer Jelinek is a keynote speaker and leadership trainer helping organizations control their chaos. She has 20 years leadership experience working with companies such as Walt Disney World, Disney Institute and H-E-B. She is a no holds barred, authentic and engaging speaker who delivers rousing keynotes and workshops.

Here are her links:






Small business owners will hit an invisible wall that can stall the growth of the company. The key reason there is a wall is that owners need to shift from manager to leader. The question is, how to do that?

Doug is a coach for CEOs and Senior Leadership Teams with 30 years of leadership experience. He is the president & CEO of Doug Thorpe Group. Doug is also a podcast host.

He helps owners understand the ways they need to reshape their thinking and attitude to make a successful break through the wall.

Learn how to move from Founder to CEO.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dougthorpe/

Doug Thorpe Website: https://dougthorpe.com/

Podcasts: https://podcasts.dougthorpe.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dougthorpe_com

Doug Thorpe Facebook: https://facebook.com/headwayexec

Instagram: https://instagram.com/dougthorpe_com

YouTube: https://youtube.com/@dougthorpe

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