YLGW - Pinkie's Playbook

January 13, 2020

Overarching lessons learned on the journey to leadership often apply across the changing seasons of our lives. To launch this year's Youth Leadership Greater Washington (YLGW) program, Pinkie Mayfield ('01) provided participants with sage advice, applied here to youth leaders, and relevant to anyone who wants to lead with a greater purpose. We call it, "Pinkie's Playbook," and it begins with 5 crucial steps to leadership.

The YLGW program kicked off for our Class of 35 accomplished youth leaders on January 8 at Pepco Edison Place Gallery. Leading our young visionaries through activities were Mahan Tavakoli (’98) CEO, Strategic Leadership Ventures (LGW Board Chair), YLGW Co-Facilitator Nathaniel Cole (’16) Sr. Director of Strategic Initiatives & Partnerships America’s Promise Alliance, YLGW Co-Facilitator Mary Mulcahy (’18) Associate Director, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Karyn Wilson, Instructor, Washington Improv Theater (WIT), Pinkie D. Mayfield (’01), Vice President – Corporate Affairs & Chief Communications Officer, Graham Holdings Company and Kristen Shattuck, Director of Facilitation & Training for Careerstone Group, LLC.

Mahan Tavakoli ('98) welcomed the Class, provided them with a context-shaping call-to-action and three verbs to focus on throughout the program, "You have a big opportunity, not only to change the trajectory of life for yourself but those around you. Focus on these three words; learn, grow, impact."

Leaders in the program are encouraged to share their stories, connect with a wide range of young leaders from across the region and continue relationships outside of the program. We encourage participants to consider the community issues that resonate with them most and find ways to take collective action.

Next up was Pinkie Mayfield ('01), the immediate past Board Chair of LGW. Celebrated for her ability to inspire youth, it is difficult to distill the passion in her talk into a blog format, but what emerged are some of the leadership tenets that Pinkie lives by.

Pinkie's Playbook:

  1. Be authentic - Be true to who you are, it will always make you relatable. That includes having core values, morals, and ethics. It is not enough to talk about what you stand for, make sure that people can see it in your actions.
  2. Be prepared - Do your homework, always be prepared. You should be the most well-versed on anything you want to lead on. It is a matter of constant evolution, you should be a lifelong learner. There should never be a subject you think you know everything on. If you are not constantly growing, you are going to be left behind.
  3. Be present - Good leaders stop themselves, and are in the moment because the things we miss when we lose focus can be really big. Don't multitask or think about having to be somewhere else. Stop yourself. This present moment was created for you to launch yourself into your future. First impressions matter, being present means that you always come ready to participate.
  4. Be in relationships - This one is super important. Make your friends before you need them. I think the number one key to success is being in relationships. You need to make 35 friends when you are in this room. As leaders, you will cross paths again. 
  5. Believe in yourself - There is one thing that overarches these core leadership concepts: belief in yourself. If you don't bet on anyone else, bet on you. 

Building Skills, Finding Strengths

Enthralled by the introductory talks, it was time to get up and get moving with an improv exercise, "Improv as a Tool for Leadership," crafted to bring the young leaders closer together. Karyn Wilson, dynamic instructor with the Washington Improv Theater helped the young leaders build confidence performing in front of a group.

On to the Leadership Skills Building Activity, where principles discussed earlier that morning became action steps for each young leader. Expert facilitator Kristen Shattuck gave the youth a tour-de-force performance, encouraging participants to present themselves with confidence and double down on their strengths.

Kristen provided some practical advice that will serve as a perennial reminder, "plant your feet, square your shoulders. If you are at a busy event and you are more introverted, you don't always have to jump right in. Find a friendly-looking group and join them. When you are meeting people for the first time, what they will remember is your body posture, your eye contact and how you introduce yourself. We want you to create a positive wake so positive energy trails behind you." 

For young people, the basics are important, like how to give and receive a great handshake and how to introduce yourself while controlling body language to present as open and engaging. To add depth to the day's lessons we provided participants with a Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to help them best understand where to apply themselves. 

To close the day our co-facilitators Mary Mulcahy (’18) and Nathaniel Cole (’16) emphasized the importance of growing through mistakes, honing talents, and the advantages of networking. Each participant then shared their key takeaways -- recapping the affirming events of the day in their own words -- and sharing their personal perspective on what it means to be a leader. 

Since 1991, the Youth Leadership Greater Washington (YLGW) program has created a positive impact on the lives of 10th and 11th graders in our region. Support for the program is provided by individuals and organizations committed to advancing youth leaders throughout our region. If you would like to learn more about how to support YLGW please contact info@lgwdc.org


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YLGW - Pinkie's Playbook