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IAM1854 – Speaker and Trainer Connects With Audiences for Magic in Leadership

Podcast Interview with Summer Jelinek

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the IAMCEO Podcast, the guest is Summer Jelinek, an engaging speaker and trainer with over 20 years of leadership experience. As a recognized leader in the field, Summer has worked with renowned companies including Walt Disney World, Disney Institute, and H-E-B/Central Market. She specializes in connecting with audiences worldwide, offering valuable insights on leadership development.

During her interview, Summer shares her personal approaches and learnings about leadership, time management, and the definition of CEOs.

  • CEO Hack: Summer talks about being creative and flexible with time management. She acknowledges the importance of utilizing time efficiently and effectively, leveraging her organizational skills and adaptability.
  • CEO Nugget: With the phrase “manage yourself first,” Summer highlights the importance of self-leadership before leading others. She believes that a strong foundation of self-leadership provides a clearer direction and understanding of being a better leader for others.
  • CEO Defined: Summer perceives CEOs as individuals carrying a lot of responsibilities while having the freedom to create their vision. She emphasizes the significant role CEOs play in directing an organization and ensuring its success.
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Summer Jelinek Teaser 00:00

And then the final piece the company can see a symptom. So you have low employee morale across the entire company, if you have 500 to 1000 employees. So most of the time, if you start doing some research, it will always connect back to leadership.

So they can bring me in to assess and identify what's causing the issues and that we can build a plan so that together we can work through improving whatever symptoms that they're seeing.

Intro 00:22

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:49

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on leadership, management and coaching. When we think of leadership, management and coaching, we often think of doing all of the other things, but often it's a person that's able to build up their team, that's able to cultivate a creative and innovative culture so that people can excel and actually be their own leaders. So that's why this month we're focusing on those three big topics because they make a huge impact on the organizations that we're part of.

Now you'll hear some of those topics this month, of course, some really great perspectives on how people are even defining leadership, which I think is extremely exciting. So sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Summer Jelinek of Summer, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Summer Jelinek 02:08

Thank you very much. I'm super excited to be here.

Gresham Harkless 02:10

No problem. Super excited to have you on. What I want to do is just read a little bit more about Summer so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Summer has been a speaker and trainer for more than six years. She has 20 years of leadership experience working with companies such as Walt Disney World, Disney Institute, H-E-B/ Central Market. Her passion is connecting with audiences around the world, particularly audiences looking for the magic in leadership.

Summer, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Summer Jelinek 02:33

I am. Yes.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:34

Awesome. Let's do it. So to kick everything off. I wanted to hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to get started with the business.

Summer Jelinek 02:41

Yeah, absolutely. So, as you mentioned, I've been in leadership for about 20 years and I was watching some leaders get it really right and some leaders get it really wrong, and then most leaders were just in the middle. The further I grew in the corporate world, the more that I was starting to see some burnout in people who were in the job and I couldn't really think of anything else to do, but they weren't enjoying it. I got frustrated with that because I love leadership. I love the impact that we can have on people.

I think sometimes leaders just get caught up in the, why am I surrounded by people who don't want to do their job? Instead of looking at it like the puzzle of the challenge that it is. So decided that I wanted to create a leadership company that's where I do a little bit of speaking, coaching and consulting, and it's helping leaders find the magic in leadership. So finding that magic within themselves that gets them excited coming into work. Then that kind of spreads throughout their team, which helps the company because they're delivering higher employee engagement, higher employee morale.

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Whenever your employees are happy, generally, you make more money. So it's a win-win for everybody.

Gresham Harkless 03:37

Yeah. There you go. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Definitely a win, win situation. I love how you spoke about the whole perspective because I think a lot of times you don't think about when you're frustrated exactly like the challenge of it.

Sometimes, as you said, it's like a puzzle piece. How do you fit these pieces together to get the overall picture and hit the mission and the goals that you have for your company or your team?

Summer Jelinek 03:56


Gresham Harkless 03:57

I know you touched on it a little bit. I wanted to hear a little bit more on like how you're working with the clients. Can you take me through the speaking and training and everything you're doing with your clients?

Summer Jelinek 04:04

Sure. Yeah. So I live primarily in three buckets. So the first one is speaking, and that's one that I'm doing the most of right now. So I speak to small organizations, large organizations, conferences. My primary focus is called the five keys to unlocking your leadership potential, the magic of leadership. I have created five magic principles, if you will. So we speak through those kind of what that looks like. So high level, how can you get that just quick shot of energy and excitement to really remember why you went into leadership to begin with? And why you are excited at the impact that you have on all of the people that follow you.

Then the next piece is coaching. So an individual can come to me and say, my leadership career is here. I want to take it to the next level or I'm struggling with employee morale. I'm having a lot of issues with conflict management. How do I effectively coach my employees and we can work through those individual pieces.

Then the final piece the company can see a symptom. So you have low employee morale across the entire company if you have 500 to 1000 employees. So most of the time, if you start doing some research, it will always connect back to leadership. So they can bring me in to assess and identify what's causing the issues and that we can build a plan so that together we can work through improving whatever symptoms that they're seeing.

Gresham Harkless 05:14

Yeah, that makes so much sense. A lot of times that leadership piece, that manager or whatever role that might be that has the power to take it to another level and not be caught in the middle as you spoke to before.

Summer Jelinek 05:25

Yeah. And the Mayo Clinic just released a statistic that was alarming. And it says that I have more impact on my employees health than their personal physician. How much weight is that to carry as a leader? Many times leaders take it for granted how much of an impact they have on their employees lives.

I want to shed light to that, put the responsibility back on our shoulders, but also give the tools to leaders so they feel like they can do it.

Gresham Harkless 05:49

Yeah, that's a huge thing and a very powerful study. A lot of times that stress happens because we do spend so much time, in the office at work, and if you don't have a great environment, it can be really a bad place for your health as well.

Summer Jelinek 06:02

I'm always telling people to look at the amount of time that you spend at work. If you don't love what you're doing, why are you willingly every day waking up going into that environment?

We spend more time at work than we do any other portion of our lives so it doesn't make sense to me when people do, because it is such a huge impact on their health and whenever they're going into these organizations that don't value them or don't set them up for success.

It's so detrimental to our lives. All aspects of our lives, not just our health.

Gresham Harkless 06:29

Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes we feel like there's not a better way or it's not possible to change or anything like that. But you're working to empower these leaders, empower these management professionals to make sure that they are able to create that environment and they can do it if they're working with people like you.

Summer Jelinek 06:42


Gresham Harkless 06:43

You might have already touched on this, but I want to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. It could be for you or your organization, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Summer Jelinek :06:52

So this is cheesy to start with, but let me explain before anybody makes a judgment.

Gresham Harkless 06:56

No judgment at all.

Summer Jelinek 07:00

I still believe in magic and I really do the everyday magic that exists when one person reaches out to another person. I like to use my husband and I for as an example. This will show you the level of my dorkiness, but I met my husband playing a video game online way back in the day before it was cool to meet your significant other online. And I'll look at my daughter, she's three years old and I'll look at my daughter and think you exist because of a video game. There was no reason that my husband and I should ever have met. We were in different parts of the country doing very different things.

It's those small steps like you go outside and you go right instead of left, and your entire world changes. What I believe the magic of leadership is when a leader looks at somebody for the very first time and doesn't see a screw-up, but see this amazing potential that hasn't had an outlet and that's the thing that makes us different, is we're not about telling everybody what we're doing wrong. We're about going in and helping leaders find their potential as well and bringing that to the surface and saying, you're not going to be a cookie-cutter leader. Your superpowers are X, Y, and Z. Llet me show you how that can drive your team. Let me show you how you can make all of these incredible changes.

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You don't have to look like every other leader. You just have to find what makes you unique what your superpower and your magic is. You have to build that and train that in the surround people who their magic isn't the exact same copy of yours. So find people who are different and look at things differently so you end up having a very well-balanced thing because that's when the magic happens when a group of people who are very different come together and they're all accepted for who they are and what they bring to the scene. That's where the difference is.

Too many times we look at people and say, Oh, you're bad at time management. So let me give you a time management class when that person will always maybe only be average at time management. Why can't we put a ton of effort into you're really great at relationship-building so let's give you a sales class and put you in our sales department. So looking at what people bring to the table instead of what they don't have.

Gresham Harkless 08:48

Absolutely. Yeah. Great at time management were awesome at being able to connect with people and build those relationships. And we want people to shine light on us. I think, like you said, it's a true definition and true example of leadership for a leader to understand and see that in somebody and put them in a place so that they can be successful.

So that the overall puzzle, so to speak, it gets put together in the right way.

Summer Jelinek 09:08

Absolutely. Yes, it's that's differentiator between the great companies and the so so company.

Gresham Harkless 09:13

Absolutely. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be an app, a book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Summer Jelinek 09:23

Whenever I first went on my CEO journey, I was trying to do it the way that I thought it was supposed to be done even though I teach, don't do that. So I was running out of time every day and, being a CEO, you never have enough time. So I started having to get really creative with my time. As I mentioned, I have a three-year-old and I'm still working in the corporate world and I'm transitioning.

So I would work 30 minutes in the morning and then I would go to my day job, come home, spend the rest of the evening with my daughter and then work 30 to 45 minutes at night and then I changed my days off. Luckily, I have a job now where I can adjust my days off, but I changed my days off to where I have a day off in the middle of the week for networking and things like that.

So, instead of looking at my life the way that it had been, it was getting creative and understanding these are the pain points that I'm finding, what solutions exist, and then finding a way to create those solutions. So be creative with your time, understand that it doesn't have to look like everybody else's time. Make it work for whatever it is that you're trying to do so that you can manage all of your priority.

Gresham Harkless 10:20

I love that and I definitely appreciate that. It reminds me, I think I heard and I don't know if I'm saying it correctly, but a lot of times there's magic. I'm gonna use the word magic just because we were talking about magic a little bit earlier. But there's magic and constraints because a lot of times when you have only a certain period of time, it has been shown to make you be more creative and come up with different solutions because you have those constraints.

Sometimes we shouldn't look at constraints and necessarily bad things, but there is opportunities to do things differently than how everybody else is doing them. So to speak.

Summer Jelinek 10:47

Yeah, no change is going to happen until we're forced to change. So I like that. There's magic and constraint. I've never heard that, I'm actually writing them down.

Gresham Harkless 10:53

Okay. Yeah. If you haven't heard that, if anybody else is definitely mine. I'll take credit.

Summer Jelinek 10:58

I will give you the credit. That's a great quote. But yeah, there is magic and constraints, it forces us to be creative.

Gresham Harkless 11:05

Yeah, absolutely. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. That is a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Summer Jelinek 11:15

So this is actually the first key in those five keys that I was telling you about. And it's manage yourself first. I think that's where a lot of shortcomings happen with anybody who's in a leadership position. It's not just leaders that are paid to be leaders, but teachers and parents and coaches is we don't look at what we're doing and what impact we're having on the organization. So whenever I was going to school for my MBA, I had a professor who taught me that to work with and through others, you have to be the one to change. You cannot change anybody else. You have to be the one to change.

So it's always looking within ourselves and figuring out, okay, this didn't go the way that I wanted it to. What could I have done differently? How could I have changed? Then the other piece of managing yourself first is if you do mess up because we are human, we will have mistakes. Own up to it, right? Take the ego. Take that little voice in the back of our heads that tells us we got to be better and we got to be perfect and mute it. Get it into that because the ego does no good when you're in a leadership position over anybody, whether it's your kids, your partners, your work. It doesn't help the situation.

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So learn how to begin muting that. You're more likely to be able to step up and own your mistakes. Apologize when you need to apologize and fix situations whenever the ego is on the back of your head.

Gresham Harkless 12:27

Yeah, I definitely appreciate those nuggets just because, definitely correct me if I'm wrong. It sounds like it also requires a lot of self-awareness because if in order to manage yourself, you have to know who you are, I think that when you do that, that helps you to be able to manage yourself so that you can control what you can control, as I usually say.

So you're not actually trying to force somebody to change. You're actually changing your perspective. We're changing who you are, not who you are, but maybe what you're doing and how you're reacting to certain situations so that you can actually see the ultimate goal that you want to have.

Summer Jelinek 12:54

Yes, absolutely. That self-awareness is key. Learn as much as you can about yourself.

Gresham Harkless 13:00

Absolutely. I appreciate that. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So, Summer, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Summer Jelinek 13:11

CEO means a few things. It means a lot of responsibility. I'm responsible for the first time in my life. I make all of the decisions. And what does that look like in my company? Success or failure falls completely on my shoulders. So is that responsibility piece.

Freedom. So for the first time, I'm the one making the decisions. I don't have somebody saying, Oh, that won't work. Or we've tried that before. We need to do this or we have budgetary constraints. It's the freedom to figure out, like we mentioned, magic and constraints. So what are my constraints and how can I get around them and using the full ability of myself, my superpowers to create this entity into what I want it to be now in five years, I'll tell you whether I was successful in it or not.

But right now, that's still that super exciting part of the responsibility and the freedom to see what happens. And, the business will be as big or as small as I create it to be so it's very, very humbling and very exciting.

Gresham Harkless 14:04

Absolutely, and I appreciate that perspective. Like you said, the freedom to create what you want. And even going back to what you were talking about, with the nugget as far as like creating that environment where it's okay to have mistakes. You as a leader, a lot of people will take it, will march to the beat of your drum, so to speak.

So if you do say, Hey, I made a mistake, then it becomes an environment where you're able to do that. It's all due to the creation that you have. So the freedom to be able to paint that picture, to create the vision for your company and to be able to execute that on the way that you see fit and want to have is definitely a big definition and big perspective about being a CEO.

What I wanted to do was pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know. And then of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

Summer Jelinek 14:49

So I think the thing that I would want all of your readers to know is to forgive. Be forgiving of themselves because most CEOs, people that are very driven, I found tend to be forgiving of others, but not forgiving of themselves. So when you're going through a journey, you're going through major change, you want to hold yourself to high standards, absolutely. But when you fall, it's okay. Be as forgiving of yourself as you are of your employees or your partner or your Children.

There's too much negative self-talk that we have going and it drives us and it makes us stronger. But it's got to be a balance. So definitely forgive yourself and be open to we are human whether we like it or not. It drives me crazy every day that I have only human, but we are only human.

Then the best way to get ahold of me is you can email me at Summer just like the season at or you are more than welcome to go to Check out the website, see if there's anything that I can do to assist. I would love to have a conversation with anybody opening it up if they say that they heard me on your podcast and I'd be happy to give him a 30-minute coaching call for no charge.

Just have a conversation and see if I can help.

Gresham Harkless 15:59

Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much again, Summer, for all the awesome things you're doing and the great words of wisdom you gave to us on how to be better leaders. We will have those links and that information in the show notes as well, just so that everybody can follow up with you and take advantage of that coaching call as well.

But thank you so much for all the awesome things you're doing. I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:15

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast, powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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