A Billion-Dollar Lesson in Leadership

Great leaders stretch themselves and their teams beyond what many perceive as possible. John Lasseter is best known as a film director, screenwriter, and animator that helped bring Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Cars, and a long list of million-dollar hits to our screens. His leadership story began at Disney. But it was the story behind Pixar’s success that inspired me to write this post.

When creating a high-performing team, it’s crucial to help everyone see the big vision and bring everyone along for the ride. Lasseter empowered and uplifted his team by placing individuals in positions that enabled them to shine. Teams were given entire projects and movies to manage on their own. It wasn’t long before they were collectively delivering ground-breaking results.

Despite making giant leaps forward in creativity, Disney had one foot firmly in the past. After daring to move away from Disney’s famous hand-drawn animation and alternatively promoting computer animation, Lasseter was fired. A new manager stripped back the team’s responsibilities, and the creativity that previously shined under Lasseter’s leadership quickly disappeared.

By contrast, Lasseter went on to work on CGI animation in Lucasfilm’s computer division graphics group. The company went on to be sold to Steve Jobs for $10 million and became Pixar in 1986. The release of Tin Toy in 1988 provided Lasseter with an Academy Award for what was the first CGI film to win an Oscar. The winds of change were blowing through the industry.

When Lasseter’s former employer realized their mistake, they attempted to bring him back into the Disney fold. He famously declined, saying, “I can go to Disney and become a director, or I can stay here and make history.” Pixar was losing money at the time, but in contrast to Disney, Steve Jobs continued to personally fund Lasseter’s work to explore the value of combining art and technology.

With audiences embracing this new and exciting form of cinema, Disney quickly signed a 10-year, five-picture deal with Pixar Animation Studios. Once again, Lasseter built and led a high-performing team that oversaw all of Pixar’s films. He also directed Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Cars, and Cars 2.

Two decades later, Disney was desperate to restore its domination in animation and acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion. At the heart of this success story are three very different leadership approaches and costly mistakes that could have been avoided.

John Lasseter believed in his team, and they explored the art of the possible together. Steve Jobs was less interested in repeating what had already been created. He believed in both Lasseter and his creative team. He understood that by working together, they could transform cinema as we know it by creating something that audiences had never seen before.

Disney, on the other hand, wanted to stubbornly stick to the winning formula and continue making more of the same. In removing the creative and corporate freedom that enabled both Lasseter and his team to stretch themselves beyond what was possible, the company quickly ran into problems.

If you give an average idea to a micro-managed team, the output will never be great. However, if you share a mediocre idea with a team you can trust and give them the freedom to bring it to life, they might transform that vision into something truly ground-breaking. This is one leadership lesson that could have saved Disney $7.4 billion.

How Caring Leaders Practice What They Preach

Over the course of my career as an employee advocate, I’ve seen countless attempts to level up one’s leadership game. Many of these endeavors have been successful, but many of them have also fallen flat. Across these various trials and tribulations, I’ve observed a common thread that seems to make or break a leader and how they impact those around them. So what do I believe is the secret ingredient to being a caring leader?

To be quite honest, there are many, but for now I will just speak to one: integrity. There is a special magic in seeing leaders who live out their values, who walk the walk and talk the talk, as they say. A true caring leader makes known their beliefs, and carries them through every one of their actions on a daily basis. Integrity is hard to describe but easy to feel; it’s just simply something you know when you see it.

What does integrity look like in the context of the caring leader? It means that we do not show up one way for one person or group, and entirely different for another. We are who we are no matter what, and we do not pretend to be someone that we are not, regardless of context, location, or company of people. We do not shy away from telling the truth, however uncomfortable that may be, and we are confident in owning the entirety of our personal and professional self.

That last point highlights a main pillar of being a genuine leader; to be authentically me, I must know myself well. I need to know my strengths, weaknesses, objectives, communication style, personality, identity, and a plethora of other dimensions that make me—well—me! Without in-depth self-awareness, my behaviors might sway in the wind. To know myself well means that I am aware of what might trigger me, what makes me smile, what makes me react or be proactive, and how I like to lead myself and others.

You can engage in learning more about yourself by examining your performance every day. Ask yourself what you did successfully, and what you could’ve done better. Ask yourself how you make others feel, and if they walked away from their interaction with you with a sense of authenticity. You can even solicit feedback explicitly, and inquire if your peers perceive you as disingenuous.

Getting reacquainted with yourself doesn’t mean you get to know yourself once and you never change again; quite the opposite is true. By knowing thyself, so to speak, you can better make adjustments to your leadership game as needed, since you will have a more nuanced and realistic appraisal of your faults and flaws. As you compensate for those gaps, you will find yourself better equipped to lead with confidence, authenticity, and integrity.

Being a caring leader who practices what they preach will not only reap benefits for you as an individual; it will also yield rewards for those around you. Being in proximity to a leader with integrity helps employees see they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and inspire them to have faith in those they follow. Moreover, it will motivate them to engage in the same kind of introspection and internal work, creating more and more caring leaders and setting off a chain reaction. However, the question remains: are you ready to start that domino effect yourself?

Finding and Fostering Greatness—However Small it May Seem

Honest confession: I am an unapologetic and total fan of NBC’s The Voice. The popular singing contest debuted in 2011, and I’ve been following the show ever since. Part of my fondness stems from my musical upbringing; my father was a musician—he was head of glee club in school, head of the choir in church, and he even had his own band at one point. So as his daughter, I was always surrounded by music, and I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember.

But beyond that, I love The Voice for another reason that I just recently became aware of. Throughout my entire professional career, I’ve had an innate desire and capacity to notice the smallest improvements in people, and wholeheartedly encourage that incremental progress. Whether it’s working one-on-one with employees to improve their communication skills, leading a bigger team on a major project, or consulting entire organizations on improving employee engagement, I’ve always been inspired to assist people along their personal journeys to bettering themselves. Seeing progress in others touches my heart, and drives me not only as a manager, but as a person.

Occasionally, I see more potential than is actually there, meaning that sometimes I overestimate others’ capabilities. Nonetheless, I love trying to reveal that brilliance to others and grow their light, so that it may shine brighter. I naturally believe in people and their potential to want more and be more. When we believe in our team’s potential and help them actualize it, we show that we care for them as humans, not just for what they can do for us. And when people have someone in their corner and feel supported, we are inspired to exceed our own expectations of ourselves.

So it’s no surprise, then, that I get genuinely emotional watching these budding musicians refine their craft week after week on television, and achieve greatness over the course of a season. Seeing professional coaches mentor these artists is like watching caring leadership in action. Why? Because caring leaders prioritize recognizing and growing the gifts and talents of those they lead. Instead of ignoring the signs of greatness in their people, caring leaders search for it.

If you are a leader, you may be asking yourself how you can do this with your own team. You might consider having meetings with individuals to really get to know them and their professional goals, and understand your role in assisting them towards those objectives. You could also keep an eye out for and pass along professional development opportunities you think they would benefit from. Give them gracious and constructive feedback on a frequent basis so they can continue working on themselves. Use your network to connect them to mentors or sponsors, so they may advance in your organization, and ask other leaders you admire about how they approach employee development.

Speaking from my own perspective, I know that I love playing a part in progress, however insignificant or time consuming it appears to others. I find it uplifting to improve people, cultures, organizations, and structures, and I consider it my job to get others to seek these improvements as well. 

I believe everyone loves bearing witness to an evolution, to an underdog story, to an upward swing in others that defies expectations. Some call it naïveté, some call it hope, but I just call it leadership.

Letting Other People’s Light Shine

Recently, I began conducting weekly Human Resources community power hours. I hope to provide a safe space for like-minded professionals to be in community with one another. This way we can share our thoughts and feelings in an open, self-led forum. The call is intentionally just for HR professionals, since I know we tend to prioritize others’ emotions above our own. As so-called “people persons,” HR professionals are naturally empathetic, and sometimes we lose sight of our own needs as we concentrate on meeting others’.

In the first meeting, the group was discussing community expectations—what we hope to get out of these calls, the future of this space, potential discussion topics, the structure, etc. One participant said they would love to discuss mental health. I immediately agreed and scheduled a future call devoted entirely to that topic. She suggested a fantastic idea, and I was more than happy to amplify it in our next meeting.

Later, I reflected on my impulsive support of my colleague. I’m often comfortable taking risks and letting others steer the direction of meetings, because I’ve experienced the value of diverse perspectives. As an HR consultant, I find that leaders want to keep the reigns firmly in their own hands and maintain control of the conversation. However, this unintentionally prevents others from being creative and innovative. Essentially, it stifles their motivation to raise new, exciting ideas.

I would caution you against hogging the spotlight for yourself for a few reasons. It is absolutely critical to let other people shine. Caring leaders want their team members to feel as if they’re in a place where they can grow, be recognized, and reach their full potential. If your employees truly feel this way, they will be empowered to exceed their own expectations.

When you recognize hard work and give credit to those that deserve it, they will feel an increased sense of loyalty to you and your organization. They will feel honored and valued for what they bring to the table. Not only that, but they will also feel more inclined to trust you, which begins with you offering them your trust. If you publicly accept input from others and share the spotlight, you will be perceived as a leader who trusts their team.

In short, no one likes when limits are imposed on them. As humans, we naturally want to be free from containment. If your employees feel like they can’t share ideas without being snubbed for credit, they’ll also feel constrained at work and be unable to excel. Just remember, collaboration at the office isn’t a zero sum game—when one of us shines, we all shine.

Tailoring Our Voices to Our New Normal

A couple of months ago, I hosted my first hybrid keynote event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A portion of the audience was in the conference hall with me, wearing masks and strictly adhering to social distancing guidelines. The rest of the audience attended virtually, watching and participating via teleconference technology.

In all honesty, it was absolutely delightful to hold a hybrid event. It felt so natural to return to the stage and be in community with an audience. After so many months in quarantine, it felt healing. I enjoyed being in proximity with other like-minded people, and seeing their eyes light up above their masks.

Of course I’ve felt at home speaking on stage for years, and over the past few months I’ve gotten used to speaking only to a camera or computer. But I’ve never had to bring those two formats into the same space and balance them simultaneously. In my keynotes, I lead with a very interactive and engaging speaking style. At times I ask the audience to answer questions, raise a hand, or stand in response to a prompt. In the wake of recent events, I’ve had to adapt my style to the digital realm, and find new ways of maintaining audience engagement. My first hybrid event was the ultimate test to see if I could synthesize my past experiences, and tailor my voice to a changing way of work, while staying true to my approach.

Though bouncing between the in-person and virtual audience was a challenge at first, I had to be comfortable rolling with whatever punches life threw at me. Caring leaders must do this too, by modifying their leadership approach to best fit whichever circumstances they find themselves in. 

My goal as a speaker is always to engage audiences and make them feel included, and this hybrid event was no different. Even from behind a mask, I still maintained eye contact and showed signs of active listening. I also had a colleague keeping tabs on the online chat, so she could give me real-time feedback and questions as they came in. I integrated all this information into my presentation right then and there, and let it guide my approach. In this sense, I symbolically brought my digital audience into the room, and made them feel part of the larger group. From the rave reviews in the chat, I could tell this gesture meant a lot to those who weren’t able to attend in person.

I talk a big game about engagement and inclusion, but I back it up by aligning my voice with those values in every aspect of my life. The same approach I use to make others feel welcome in my presence is the same strategy I use as a speaker, manager, friend, and even as a mother. By asking questions, allowing participation, and making my presentations accessible for all individuals, I’m always seeking innovative ways to host a space for others and show them that their voice is as important as mine. 

Caring leaders should open a dialogue that allows everyone to operate within a space that welcomes both their strengths and weaknesses. As we navigate this new normal, we must customize our methods to meet our people where they are—whether that’s behind a mask or behind a screen.

Giving & Receiving Grace in Response to Workplace Harm

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual diversity, equity, and inclusion course. It was fantastic to be in community with other thought leaders and colleagues within the DEI space, and take our collective learning to the next level. Even as someone with years of experience in the field, I can always stand to learn something new from others, and I cherish that process.

On the first day we got to know each other and began to better understand our backgrounds. This early stage of relationship building can be awkward—and the awkwardness is exacerbated by the distance technology creates—but we were lucky enough to progress past this phase quickly. Our informal conversations allowed us to quickly understand where our hearts are, how our histories led us to this point, and what our hopes for the course were.

But as with any new group of peers, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. At one point, a Lebanese American woman, who presents more as white, was sharing a story. All of a sudden, she used the term “colored person” in passing, but it definitely struck a chord with those of us who caught it. Another participant, an African American woman from the South, rewound the conversation to correct her. She explained that “colored person” is an outdated and offensive term, and that she felt hurt by its use. The woman who said it was taken aback, as she hadn’t even realized what she said. She of course apologized, and we moved on.

The next day, we learned that the Lebanese American woman texted the African American woman in private afterwards, explaining that her intent was never to offend anyone, but that she takes full responsibility for the mistake. Whereas most people would try to brush off such a blunder or deflect accountability for it, this woman was vulnerable in admitting the harm she caused and listening to how her words affected those around her. The two of them brought this exchange to the larger group, and I was heartened by the display of camaraderie between all of us. We explained how we knew her intentions were positive, so we all felt safe in extending grace to her for an honest mistake.

These two women are perfect case studies for different yet equally powerful kinds of caring leadership. The person who made the hurtful comment demonstrated authentic self-leadership in how she expressed remorse, compassion, and vulnerability. Instead of getting defensive or angry, she listened to her peers and made a small commitment to not only repair the harm she caused on an individual level, but to better herself moving forward as well. On the flip side, the woman who called her into a learning moment exemplified the power of holding others accountable, and genuine forgiveness. She was mature and well-spoken in how she articulated the harm she experienced, and accepting and collaborative in how she opened up a dialogue with the person who offended her. Together, these two individuals used their relationship to teach the rest of us about all of these emotional tools, and how caring leaders can utilize all of them to give and receive grace when a mistake is inevitably committed in the workplace.

Of course, there will be some instances of offense that may feel too drastic to overlook or move past, and those moments will require a distinct set of strategies. But when you feel slighted by a comment made under someone’s breath or hurt by an offhand statement, I urge you to embody the characteristics these two women did. If you’re upset by something, give yourself the time to stop the operation and tend to that wound. If you cause distress by something you did, listen to why your actions caused harm, work with the other person to find a mutually agreeable solution, and internalize the lessons learned. At the end of the day, mistakes are inevitable, but failing to learn from them isn’t. We only evolve when we open ourselves up to the mere possibility of growth.

How Outside Opinions Help Us Gain Clear & Conscious Leadership Vision

I’ve worn glasses since I was eleven years old. I attribute my nearsightedness to watching way too much television when I was younger, and my vision has only gotten worse as the years have passed.

A while ago, I was having difficulty seeing clearly out of my glasses, which was beginning to impair my productivity and ability to lead others. So I scheduled a check up with the optometrist to see what was going on and get some medical advice. For some reason, I didn’t end up taking their suggestions; perhaps it was a timing conflict or an effort to save money, but the point is that I shrugged off their counsel without a second thought.

As you might guess, my vision continued to worsen, until I had no choice but to do what the doctors said. Of course, when I took their advice and updated my prescription, it was like magic. Suddenly I could see everything in incredible detail, and it felt like a huge weight was lifted off me.

This moment reminded me of how leaders often get jaded with time, or their judgment becomes clouded under the fog of endless responsibilities and lengthy to-do lists. When we feel overwhelmed, we fail to see people as they are, which can cause problems. I myself have gotten bogged down in my own issues, buckled under the pressure, and suffered from tunnel vision that prevents me from openly receiving outside opinions.

When we get caught up in our own filters, lenses, past experiences, and blindspots, we tend to believe that we are the only ones capable of solving our problems. But just as I was incapable of (literally) seeing the solution to my vision problem, caring leaders should recognize that the input of others is an effective way to consider new ideas and solutions. We all need external support to see clearly and innovate our way through challenges. Taking advantage of this kind of help isn’t a sign of weakness; in fact, the opposite is true. Accepting assistance is a sign of humility and self-awareness, and an astute use of the network you’ve built for yourself.

Ask yourself, who in your circles do you turn to when you’re having trouble seeing clearly? These champions could be a professional coach, a close friend, peers or coworkers, a trusted confidant, therapists, or even a family member. Bringing in outside perspectives can also include reading literature and consuming content you wouldn’t typically expose yourself to. They say what we read today walks and talks tomorrow, so now is the perfect time to start developing that foundation of fresh ideas for future obstacles. The more help we accept in developing our leadership vision, the more support we benefit from, and the more we can pay it forward to others.

What Inclusion Means to Me

As a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, my clients often ask me, “what does inclusion mean?” But the more apt question would be, “what does inclusion mean to you?” We each carry within ourselves entirely unique backgrounds and identities, and those subjective experiences invariably determine what we consider truly inclusive environments. As a result, inclusion will look, sound, and feel completely different to different people.

So what does inclusion mean to me, Heather Younger? 

Let’s start with the basics.

To me, inclusion does not mean the exclusion of others. It means embracing every member of your team with open arms despite whatever differences distinguish them. But it also means not quite erasing those differences for the sake of superficial unity. In honoring those distinctions, we transform would-be outsiders into welcomed insiders.

To me, inclusion means full and unconditional acceptance. I often say that acceptance sets us all free, and I believe this is so because acceptance is the primal core of our needs. When we’re born into our parents’ arms, we want them to accept us—flaws and all. We have a deep-set desire to be seen and loved for who we are, and one way to do this at work is to accept our people however they come to us, including their past baggage. Inclusion is the comfort in meeting others in their fullness, and accepting whatever messiness or complexity that entails.

To me, inclusion means empowering those we lead, not belittling them by way of passing judgment, micromanaging, or banishing all talk of personal matters from the office. It means you work with them to collaboratively push through tough projects, you demonstrate trust by intentionally delegating big projects, and you respectfully ask about their personal life to signal you care about their entire experience as a human. When employees notice this level of compassion, they feel they can show up for their workday as their authentic selves.

To me, inclusion means having tough conversations. This includes welcoming dissenting or controversial opinions to the discussion, because everyone should feel safe enough to voice their perspective in an inclusive environment, even if it goes against the grain. It’s really easy for us to invite those we like, those who look like or act like us, or those we agree with to the table. Nonetheless, our invitations, whether implicit or explicit, must advance and include the whole of our team, especially those from minority viewpoints or identities. In this sense, inclusion is an acknowledgement that every team member is a human being worthy of respect, dignity, and the benefit of the doubt. It is both the invitation to speak and the validation that you heard them that makes all the difference in helping everyone feel supported.

Perhaps the crux of my definition of inclusion is an emphasis on family in the broadest sense of the word. As I deliver keynotes on stage on this very topic, my sole purpose is to bring everyone into community with me, and create a safe atmosphere of mutual acceptance. My goal is to create a family, even temporarily. If my audience feels truly accepted, just for a moment, I know I’ve done my job and created a culture of inclusion, and that’s what inclusion means to me.

How Our Authentic Stories Can Bring About Greater Good

After a lifetime of trying to minimize my difference—the difference between me and my white mother, the difference between me and my coworkers, the difference between me and other thought leaders—I am now being pulled out of the shadows and into the spotlight to share my story. These past few years, I’ve felt compelled to share my journey of overcoming adversity, being an outsider in the workplace, and existing as an outcast in a biracial household. My Jewish grandmother was dissatisfied with whom my mother had chosen to start a family with (i.e., someone Black and Christian), which complicated our relationship since I was a symbolic embodiment of that sin, so to speak. As an adult, I now see the professional skills this experience of exclusion instilled in me, and I feel how this story resonates with the audiences I share it with.

It’s a strange and uncomfortable process, simply because I’ve been conditioned to find safety in hiding my story. But when the call to action is so loud and so resolute, it’s important to follow that call for the greater good. As I’ve discovered my leadership style over the course of my career, I’ve learned that a caring leader is someone who is comfortable being vulnerable with those they lead, thus fulfilling a higher—albeit more difficult—purpose. 

About eight years ago, before my current role as an employee advocate, I became good friends with an Orthodox Jewish coworker whom I had hired as a sales representative. He wore a yarmulke, attended an Orthodox synagogue, adhered to kosher eating guidelines—and he did all of this openly and with pride. He knew a little bit about my Jewish background, but not the entire picture. At that point, I was still in the process of becoming comfortable bringing my full self to work, complicated family history and all. However, he was generally aware of my Jewish heritage, and it allowed us to forge a strong connection.

A few years down the road, he invited me to his son’s upcoming bar mitzvah. Now here’s the truth: at that point in my life, I had never attended or even been invited to a bar mitzvah, despite my half-Jewish upbringing. After all, I was never welcome at those kinds of events as the “black sheep” of the family. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised, a bit nervous, and of course very honored by his invitation. He had no idea how special that small gesture was to me, yet his act of grace and courtesy made a big impact on my relationship with my Jewish identity.

I attended the ceremony, perhaps with a little trepidation. In the past, I’ve written about how my Jewish grandmother would keep me hidden from her community because she was ashamed to have a biracial granddaughter, and since then, I’ve been anxious to reenter Jewish spaces. To my suprise, everyone at this Orthodox synagogue was extremely welcoming, accepting, and warm. I felt as if I was in a judgment-free zone, where no one even cared that I looked different than the rest of the crowd. At the end of the day, I finally felt accepted and included in a community I had always been a part of, but in which I had never felt truly welcomed. 

Recently, I shared this particular story with a corporate client who was trying to grasp the meaning of inclusion. The key takeaways helped elucidate what inclusion means to me: don’t lead with fear if someone on your team is different from you. Instead, lead with curiosity and courage, and stand in solidarity with them as you honor (not erase) that very difference. Be proud of your alignment with other communities, and welcome others into that process who you believe might benefit from that proximity to diversity. This is exactly what my Orthodox Jewish friend did for me, and I now pay that grace forward by telling our story.

My life and career is full of these kinds of stories, and I’m now witnessing the power they hold if wielded responsibly. As I become more comfortable opening up as a caring leader, I can attest to the profound potency that vulnerability carries as a teaching tool. I encourage you to take stock of your own stories, and consider what lessons you can pass along if you just take center stage for a moment.

3 Tips for Leading With Empathy & Compassion

The other day, I was picking up an order from a deli for my mother, who had ordered ahead of time. I didn’t realize the order was set for a later pick up time, so I arrived, and it wasn’t ready. When I told them that I had traveled 45 minutes and was wondering if there was any way for them to expedite the order, the cashier shrugged off my request, and told me there was nothing they could do, and that I would just have to wait around. My mother decided to call them over the phone, and to my surprise, they gladly agreed to speed up the order and have it ready in 15 minutes.

Frustrated, I wondered why they chose not to show me empathy and understanding when I was standing right in front of them. Why did they not care for me and my needs until a secondary request came into play?

My interaction with the deli staff made me think of all the times employees come to their manager with an issue, and are brushed off without a second thought. In the most dysfunctional organizations, employees don’t consider their manager a caring leader. Rather, they consider them a boss, someone who has the authority to make their professional life a walk in the park or a living hell.

We each have the choice to decide how we show up for others. Do we problem solve with our team members as they stand in front of us, or do we leave them to their own devices? Do we make excuses for why we didn’t treat them better when we’re called out for our behavior? Do we exercise empathy and compassion when we’re called on to lead? Do we leave our employees feeling supported and respected, or unheard and unimportant?

These are the questions I ask my clients all the time. They’re the questions you should be asking yourself on a regular basis to ascertain where you’re failing your employees. So how do we consciously do better as leaders? Below are three tried-and-true tips for leading with empathy:

  • Slow down. We all know how busy managers can be, but when an employee comes to you with a problem and you treat them as another box to check off on your to-do list, it makes them feel like you don’t have time for them. Try to slow down your interactions, and see the person in front of you as a human being worthy of dignity and care, and not just a cog in your machine. A little undivided attention goes a long way.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is what empathy is at its core. It’s about seeing a situation from someone else’s perspective, and connecting to the emotions from their viewpoint. Step out of your shoes and ask questions to get a better sense of their experience. “Why do you feel that way? What do you see that I might not be aware of? In your opinion, how can I best support you?” Questions like these will aid you in creating a solution that works for both of you.
  • Exercise self-awareness. Oftentimes, we offend people when we least intend to, so be conscious of every word you say, the tone with which you say it, and what your body language might be communicating that your words aren’t. When we fall short in caring for our employees, use self-reflection to determine what you did wrong, how you can improve moving forward, and how you can rebuild that bridge.

The relationship between employee and leader should be a mutually beneficial one, where both parties are respected, supported, and inspired by one another. You shouldn’t leave your team members high and dry in moments of frustration, like the deli staff did to me. You should center your leadership approach around empathy and compassion, and prioritize connection-building as the foundation of a healthy team dynamic.