A Reflection On Season Two and the Future of Mission Megaphone 

A Reflection On Season Two and the Future of Mission Megaphone 

Have you been missing mission-driven content and organizations to support? We certainly have! We had a blast during the second season with Jenny Vazquez-Newsum as our guest host exploring untapped leadership in leaders of color, and all of the inspiring stories our season two guests shared. So, we released a short bonus episode with Jenny and Lynz, Founder and GM of Growth Network Podcasts, reflecting on the past season and discussing the future of Mission Megaphone. Lynz and Jenny discussed their experience producing and hosting Mission Megaphone and shared some visions for the future. While our project may be on hold for the moment, we are still passionate about driving the conversation about organizations and leaders doing important work. So, the future of Mission Megaphone is still in the works – but we wanted to share with you our favorite lessons shared by our guests in season two and we hope to inspire you to continue our mission of sharing this work in your daily lives. 


Episode One – Selena Wilson – Leaning into Your Authentic Leadership 

This episode was such a powerful conversation and the main theme we took from this episode was the impact of great mentorship. Selena discusses a few stories in this episode about her journey through life, from her childhood to college, and into adulthood where she landed her role as CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Centre (EOYDC). This position is truly a full circle for Selena, as EOYDC was a key space for her when she was growing up in East Oakland. Throughout this episode, Selena recounts many times when pivotal moments in her life were influenced by the mentors she had around her. 

Selena shares a personal story about a friend whose life was brutally taken from them when she was young and the impact this had on her. She dealt with grief and depression, withdrawing from many of her activities and extracurriculars. It was during this time that a mentor she had from EOYDC showed up at her door to check on her and see why she wasn’t showing up at the center anymore. Selena discusses how she doesn’t know if she would have ever returned if that mentor had not shown up and made that effort to see how she was. 

Later in life, when Selena had completed post-secondary and was looking towards the future, another mentor encouraged her to apply for grad school and continue her education. She thought, didn’t I do it? Wasn’t completing the first degree enough? But she thought about going to law school as it interested her. However, she couldn’t afford the LSAT Prep Courses that would help her get into a great school. During this time, Selena reached out to a couple that served as mentors to her throughout high school, and they covered the cost of her LSAT Prep and encouraged her to reach out to other lawyers and find her WHY for wanting to go to law school. This all led to her gaining the education and experience that landed her the role of CEO of EOYDC, a place that played such a significant role in shaping her into the leader she is today. 

It is clear through these personal experiences of Selena that without mentors in her life, she could turn towards for advice, guidance, and support – her leadership path may have looked completely different. It sheds light on the importance of community, and it surely inspired us to strengthen those relationships in our own lives. We hope Selena’s episode can inspire you as well – you never know when the mentorship you give to others could change their lives forever. 


Episode Two – Mondi Kombula-Fraser – Leading Without Ego 

Mondi Kombula-Fraser is the Vice President of Government Relations and General Counsel for the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area and is a passionate advocate for empowering individuals to reach their full potential. With a deep commitment to authenticity and inclusivity, she brings a unique perspective to the leadership arena and finds strength in leading without ego. As a respected lawyer and inspiring educator, Mondi’s insights and experiences left a lasting impact on us. Specifically, her ability to empower others in their own leadership journeys. 

Mondi had a theme of empowering others in many of the stories she shared as a guest on Mission Megaphone, especially through removing your ego from conversations at work. When you give space for other people to speak their minds and disagree, you empower them to bring that into other spaces and to feel comfortable sticking to their values, and speak up against things they don’t necessarily believe in. Mondi does this by being honest in conversations and encouraging others to speak their truths, letting them know that she has no ego in the decisions or conversations they may be having. 

It is also especially empowering to see a leader who doesn’t claim to know everything and isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know, but let me find out for you!”. It humanizes leadership, making us recognize that beyond our titles or standing in our personal or professional lives, we are simply human at the core. Mistakes are made, things get forgotten, and we don’t always have an immediate answer – but true leadership shines through when you are willing to be honest and work together to find solutions. Mondi teaches us that being honest and removing your ego does not compromise your authority as a leader – it enforces it. 


Episode Three – Kevin Henry – Creating a Culture of Inclusion 

In this episode of Mission Megaphone, Jenny sat down with Kevin Henry, the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering. This enlightening conversation with Kevin Henry gave us a deeper understanding of inclusive leadership that drives positive change. Whether you’re an aspiring leader or seeking to enhance your existing leadership skills, this episode will equip you with actionable insights to make a difference in your personal and professional life. Kevin shares many examples of actions you can take to develop your leadership, but here are some of our favorites. 

Being a great leader is having the ability to hear and pay attention to things that are not being said. Kevin says “When we’re in spaces where we’re listening, a lot is being said that is nonverbal”. This is especially true in DEI conversations, so the ability to tap into what isn’t necessarily being spoken and read between the lines is a key quality of a great leader. He also inspires us to reflect on true listening and to not always be thinking of what your response will be or the next thing to say, but to truly be present when listening to others’ experiences. 

Kevin also discusses how a great leader knows how and when to pivot. As we see through many of the leaders in this season, there are infinite paths to get to an end goal. When you are rigid in your processes or ways of doing things, you leave out so many opportunities to get to your desired goal. A great leader can take life as it is happening and know that you can still reach a goal by pivoting your direction, and the people that you may be working with will appreciate that because it gives space for flexibility – something that can make all the difference as we know that life rarely goes as planned! 

Another quality of an impactful leader is the ability to appreciate failure. We know what you’re thinking – appreciate failure? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what we are taught our whole lives? Well, yes. However, Kevin shares that failure is such a missed opportunity in the work environment and leadership. “In any work that you do, any organization, any group, you have to be allowed to fail. As much as you succeed and learn through success, more is learned through failure.” This powerful quote from Kevin sticks with us because it couldn’t be more true. We are sure you could think of infinite times in your life when you learned something through failure, from licking frozen poles as a child to losing a major client or project – there is much to be learned from our failures throughout all facets of life. So, let’s appreciate the growth and lessons learned from those experiences and make space (and grace) for more failure. 


Episode Four – Corean Canty – Improvisational Leadership: Unleashing Creativity and Adaptability 

In this episode of Mission Megaphone, we embarked on tapping into your creative leadership journey with an extraordinary guest, Corean Canty, Workplace Wellbeing and Life Design Expert & Founder of The Life is Collective. The most impactful lesson in this episode with Corean is that leadership is not always brewed in the workplace and that we can find ourselves building leadership skills in our extracurriculars as well. 

Corean tells us that traditionally we see the same kinds of people at the leadership levels of organizations, often white cis-gendered men, and if everyone at the decision-making table looks and thinks the same, how much innovation can come out of that room? It is critical to have diversity at the table because it is our unique lived experiences that allow us to come up with innovative ideas. In our current society where everything is always evolving and evolving at a speed never seen before, it is crucial to stay up to date with the ever-changing technology and ideas in your industry. 

One way Corean has had success in navigating these types of rooms, where change is seen as a negative experience, is through a different type of tool in her leadership belt… improv! When you are walking into an environment where historically you have not felt heard, improv lends the ability and skill to understand what world is there and how to build upon it. Let’s think about when we were children. We would gather together to play and someone would pitch the scenario, “The floor is lava and I’m going to jump over it with my huge green wings!”. You probably would not be arguing back with the other kid saying “There is no lava and you can’t have wings, it just doesn’t work!”. Instead, kids have the magical ability to just say yes and go along with the story! In the workplace, we have a lot to learn from our inner child. Instead of disagreeing with someone’s idea, maybe tap into your improvisational child and just say yes and maybe we can build on that idea or make it better by adding on my idea or so and so’s idea. Corean teaches us a valuable lesson that next time we are faced with a decision-making scenario and we may not agree with another idea, try using improv’s main rule “Yes, And!”. 


Episode Five – Angela Howard – The Culture Shift: Unpacking Misconceptions and Embracing Authentic Leadership 

This was such an enlightening conversation with Jenny and Angela Howard, CEO of Call for Culture. Angela, an organizational psychologist, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience transforming culture in the workplace. One of the strongest lessons from Angela’s episode is that workplace culture mirrors our societal culture – and if we want to make a change in the way we work, we have to deeply reflect on the way our culture operates. 

One of the biggest gaps Angela views in organizational leadership is matching our words to our actions, or even understanding what our words mean in the first place. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are hot buzzwords in the workplace right now. But as a leader, do you know what inclusion truly means to you? To be a great leader and make a strong impact on your team members and organization, you need to be strategic about understanding the reinforcement of cultural systems within an organization. 

Angela opens our eyes to the way that the workplace mirrors life, in that we often see many leaders get away with negative behavior because they are talented or good at their jobs. We see this value reinforced in our government, in our large corporations, etc. To make true change at an organizational level, values like this need to be recognized and people need to be held accountable for their actions and their words. To have true diversity and inclusion, we need to reflect on what inclusion means to us as leaders and put this into practice throughout our entire lives, not just our work life. 

Another wonderful lesson from Angela we think can not be left out here is that leadership should be a choice. In our society, climbing the ladder is often seen as the “thing to do”, right? Organizations need to do better in providing multiple paths to leadership other than climbing the ladder to the executive level, otherwise, we end up in a cycle with people in positions that they just may not be suited for, not being held accountable and reinforcing harmful societal values instead of working to deconstruct them in the workplace. By allowing people to express their leadership skills in different ways, we leverage our strengths and passion, creating a healthier work environment all around. 


Episode Six – André Darmanin – Reshaping Organizations for Equity 

André Darmanin, CEO of Urban Equity Consulting, is a seasoned leadership consultant who took us on a journey to explore the true essence of leadership and reshape organizations to embrace equity and diversity. André gives a valuable lesson in this episode of needing to find your motivation to keep going because as a change-maker, you will often find yourself against those who have rigid mindsets and don’t see the need for change. 

André shares a personal experience from a previous role he had in transit planning when he questioned why they weren’t looking at the experiences of the riders using their transit system. He was met with critics stating that they simply don’t do that there, they focus on the data they have. As someone who has always made people uncomfortable in the sense that change is needed, André shares that it is in moments like this that you need to dive deep into your motivation to keep going despite others shutting you down. 

When your career is influenced by people who don’t want to change, you may feel setbacks, your confidence dips, and you feel more stressed out and frustrated. If you don’t have your WHY to fall back on or motivation from others in your life, burnout can have a real effect on your life. André shares that in a lot of professions, we will run into people who are leaders who want to reinforce the status quo, and to overcome this it is necessary to have support, reach out to mentors, and not allow those situations to hurt you. Having motivation and being authentic in your WHY, will build the resilience needed to be a change-maker in the workplace. 


Episode Seven – Urvashi Bhatnagar – Leading with Purpose: Rethinking Healthcare and Sustainability 

In this episode of Mission Megaphone, we were joined by Urvashi Bhatnagar, a visionary leader at the crossroads of healthcare, sustainability, and innovation. Her extensive background in data science, consulting, and healthcare, sheds light on the powerful synergy between leadership, sustainability, and healthcare outcomes. As the co-author of “The Sustainability Scorecard,” Urvashi shares personal experiences of how being a patient in the healthcare system informed her leadership and engrained in her the importance of human wellness. Her lived experiences have informed her leadership and show us that many leadership skills can be found in the trials we have gone through in our personal lives. 

It’s like the saying goes: “You can’t truly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Urvashi’s journey as a patient, navigating surgeries and therapy from a young age, speaks volumes about resilience and the importance of support systems. It’s not just about facing challenges head-on. It’s about having the right people by your side who understand the system and advocate for your well-being. That level of personal experience breeds empathy and insight that can’t be taught in any leadership seminar. 

One key lesson that shines through is the power of empathy in leadership. When you’ve been through an experience yourself, you understand the struggles of those you lead. You’re not just making decisions from an ivory tower, you’re grounded in reality and can be aware of the human element in the choices you make. Urvashi shares that her ability to connect with her team on a personal level stems directly from her own experiences. It’s not about dictating orders from above; it’s about walking alongside your team, understanding their needs, and empowering them to succeed. 

The stories Urvashi shares in this episode illustrates that the best leaders aren’t born in boardrooms; they’re forged in the fires of personal experience. Her journey as a patient has not only shaped her understanding of healthcare but also her approach to leadership. It’s a testament to the idea that our past experiences, no matter how challenging, can serve as powerful guides on the path to becoming effective leaders who truly make a difference in the lives of those they serve. 


Episode Eight – Cedric Rogers – Operationalizing Leadership 

This episode features a great conversation between old friends Jenny and Cedric Rogers, Co-Founder and CEO of Culture Genesis, a media-tech company that remixes digital technology for authentic urban culture and entertainment. Culture Genesis owns All Def Digital, the largest Black-owned digital media publisher and network with a community of over 30 million. Cedric shares great examples of how he operationalizes his leadership by relying on continuous learning and collaboration and great communication with partners and team members. 

The journey toward effective leadership begins with a commitment to absorb wisdom from those who have walked on similar paths. By reading literature that illuminates the experiences of industry leaders, Cedric gains invaluable perspectives on challenges faced and decisions made, influencing the way he makes similar moves in his organization. As Cedric highlights, books like “The 5:00 AM Club” and “The Miracle Morning” highlight the significance of starting the day with practices like meditation, prayer, and journaling. These rituals not only foster a clear mindset but also nurture a deep-rooted connection to one’s vision—a compass that guides every leadership endeavor. Putting routine practices such as these in Cedric’s life has made a huge impact in keeping on track with the vision he has for his company. 

From there, he shares that operational rhythm is a huge priority for him and his business partner. He learned a valuable lesson from a previous manager at Apple that you want your team to be able to always count on certain things to happen, rain, snow, or shine. Cedric brings this to his company by keeping consistent routines for team meetings so that they build consistency and rhythm with the team. The consistency in showing up brings the vision down to the team level and reinforces trust between the leader and team members. 

It is evident through Cedric’s leadership journey that becoming a good leader is marked by a commitment to continuous learning, the cultivation of meaningful partnerships, and the establishment of transparent and consistent communication channels. Drawing from Cedric’s experiences, it’s evident that leadership is not merely about wielding authority but about inspiring, empowering, and guiding others toward a shared vision. 


Episode Nine – Mariah Rankine-Landers – From Observation to Activation: A Leadership Journey 

In this powerful episode of Mission Megaphone, we dived into the world of creativity and leadership with Mariah Rankine-Landers, Co-Founder of Studio Pathways, which provides an inquiry-based approach to culturally responsive teaching and learning. Mariah is also the Co-Author of the newly released book “Do Your Lessons Love Your Students? Creative Education for Social Change.” Mariah’s wisdom gained through her lived experiences as an artist, educator, leader, and author provides invaluable insights into activating leadership within ourselves and others, specifically the need to take up space and believe in yourself. 

Mariah recounts a transformative moment from her youth, when she hesitated to pursue an international office within her youth group, feeling unworthy compared to her competitor. She believed her competitor deserved the role and she didn’t want to take the opportunity away from this other person. Seeing Mariah giving up on stage, her sponsor intervened, urging her not to diminish her light and insisting she claim the space she rightfully deserved. With unwavering encouragement, Mariah stepped into her power and ultimately became the first black international officer in the group’s recent history. This personal story Mariah shared shows the importance of taking up space and pushing past self-doubt. This pivotal moment not only propelled Mariah into a position of leadership but also serves as an inspiration for others to recognize their potential regardless of societal expectations or limitations. 

As Mariah’s career unfolded, she became a teacher who always steered away from the canned curriculum. She was not favored by school leadership because of this but had great relationships with her students and their families. This led her to leave the classroom and shift into administration, where she was able to support teachers to professionally grow their wisdom around the role of the arts and in connection with culture. These paths evolved into the work she does with Studio Pathways, working directly with schools, institutions, and now philanthropy. 

Through Mariah and her experiences, we see the ripple effect of courageous leadership—a ripple that extends far beyond individual achievements to inspire collective progress and empowerment. Mariah’s journey exemplifies how moments of encouragement and self-realization can shape the trajectory of leadership, igniting a spark that illuminates paths for others to follow. Ultimately, effective leadership is not just about occupying positions of authority but about uplifting voices, fostering growth, and creating a world where everyone feels seen, valued, and empowered to thrive. 


Thank you for joining us for Season Two of Mission Megahone! 

We hope you loved the guests of Season Two of Mission Megaphone just as much as we did, and that you have found ways to implement their teachings into your own life. Mission Megahone is a path to inspiring others to recognize the leadership within themselves and recognize the impactful work that is being done around the world. While we may not be on your podcast feeds weekly for a while, these episodes will live on to share with those who need them because when you find inspiration, make sure to pass it on! 


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *