Austin Leader and Mentor on Getting Past Perfect and Lessons Learned

By Danielle Trevino, 4020 Vision Ambassador

LG headshotForty-something Lesley Guthrie is all about helping others.

“To me, my core is all about customer service and what can I do to help others. That’s my passion.”

The Austin native and former executive director of the Texas Governor’s Commission for Women is now in charge of external relations and community engagement at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services where she works with foundations, stakeholder groups, advocates, and foster families to help Texas children.

“I wanted to [work] somewhere where there was a mission I believed in…” Lesley said of her job at DFPS. “I’m not on the front lines. I’m not a caseworker. But I get to play a role behind the scenes, and I like that.”

Outside of her 9-to-5 role, Lesley has been involved in the Girl Scouts of America for a decade as a troop leader and volunteers for an non-profit organization through her church called Open Table. Open Table brings together a group of people to mentor a youth who is aging out of the foster care system. Through their weekly meetings, they help a mentee navigate everything from Social Security payments to healthcare.

“[Life can be] overwhelming to me at 48,” Lesley said. “I can only imagine what it’s like for [my mentee] at 20.”

Lesley urges 20-somethings to be present in the moment, be grateful, and to surround themselves with people they admire and respect.

“We are not perfect, and the sooner we can get past that and understand we have weaknesses, the better off we’re going to be,” she said when asked about advice for 20-somethings. “Continually seek advice from others: your supervisors, peers, [and] direct reports who can give you honest feedback and help you grow as a leader.”

When asked what gifts she would grant a 20-something as a 40-something fairy godmother, Lesley said:

  1. A mirror — “We need to look at ourselves for who we really are and try to understand what drives us, where our passions lie—whether it’s faith, success, relationships. But the more time we can spend getting to know who we are, the better off we’re going to be.”
  2. A trusted mentor — “[Someone] who is truly focused on their career development and being a cheerleader for them, celebrating career highlights and giving honest feedback. Someone who can listen when they need to bend an ear. We all need a mentor.”
  3. A mentee — “It’s incredibly important to, while you’re reaching forward with your mentor, you’re reaching back to help pull that person along. Helping someone else develop their career can be incredibly rewarding, and taking time to invest in someone else’s success is incredibly important.”

Lesley Guthrie and her husband reside in North Austin with their son and daughter.

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