The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

YALI at the Rockefeller Center: Leadership Presence and Storytelling with Sean Kavanagh

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This is the second in an ongoing series of articles on the Rockefeller Center's participation in the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI.

This Summer's YALI fellows at Dartmouth recently participated in their first leadership session, an activity with Sean Kavanagh, CEO of The Ariel Group, entitled Leadership Presence and Storytelling. "Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand," said Confucius, a quotation recalled at the event. Kavanagh used performance and acting skills to educate the fellows on the importance of storytelling and presence for effective leading. He began the session by working with the fellows to define the characteristics of a good actor and drew comparisons between effective actors and effective leaders. Fellows then presented their personal stories using the methods of leadership presence that were discussed, methods such as eye contact, a sense of timing, projection, body language, and present tense.

Sean Kavanah, CEO of The Ariel Group, addresses to YALI fellows

With empathy and authenticity, Patrice Luah, Mshila Sio, and Bernard Komu shared their challenging personal stories involving family deaths, diseases, and a menacing second grade swimming lesson. These tales revealed the individual struggles that have contributed to these fellows' leadership abilities. This workshop presented an important model for leadership: presence, reaching out, expression, and self-knowledge. One fellow reflected on the session saying, "Story telling is a great way to communicate, connect, engage and draw your audience in, be it in business or your personal life." Another fellow enjoyed the relevance of this activity, "The session was surprisingly insightful, especially when you take into cognizance that the African context is one that values telling stories."

YALI fellows in the Class of 1930 Room at the Rockefeller Center

Each week this Summer, another leadership session with a new speaker is held.

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