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Hi! I am Daniel Lieberman

I was anti-leadership. I thought bosses were fat-cats in empty suits.

I took a job as a barista at Starbucks in 1990. I had fun and was surprised to be offered a promotion into management. Only two things crossed my mind, I was having fun and I would earn more money.

I was in.

I was still having fun as a boss. I began to see that leadership and management aren’t necessarily evil. I was surprised because I liked the power to be a force for positive change. The title and authority didn’t corrupt me. There was one person who led me to completely transform the story.

I met Li'l Ronald he was 18. He was one of the few who made it to graduation  at a school on Chicago’s South Side. He lived with his girlfriend and their twin baby girls in his grandmother’s apartment at the notorious Robert Taylor Homes housing project. He was working at a convenience store in the neighborhood. 

It was tough neighborhood, every product was behind bulletproof glass. You had to tell the clerk what you wanted and they’d go retrieve it. That was Li'l Ronald’s job.

He hated it. Mean customers and managers, but he had grit and hope. I invited him to meet me for a coffee at a Starbucks store. He enjoyed his first latte. We talked. He was intrigued by the respectful “Starbucks Experience.” A few weeks later he was behind the counter, green apron on, slinging coffee.

He loved it! Everyone loved him. He was having the time of his life, earning almost twice as much as his old job. More importantly, his dignity got validated on the daily. Most importantly,  his baby girls had health insurance!

We’d meet every few weeks and talk about life, work, and family. Within a few months he earned a promotion to shift supervisor and proposed to his girlfriend. They married and moved out of the projects into their own apartment.

Li'l Ronald was always so grateful whenever we’d meet. He’d express it abundantly, I told him I was learning from, and appreciating him. It was mutual. 

What I didn’t know then, that I do now: He helped me transform the story. Management, leadership didn’t need to exploit people to get positive results. In fact, Li'l Ronald transformed me. He taught me that leadership can be valuable beyond measure.

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