John Lesko


Candidate's Office: International Director

Region Number: 7

Toastmasters member since: 1998

Education: Bachelor of Science (National Security & Public Affairs) United States Military Academy, West Point, NY Master of Science in General Engineering (Technology Strategy & Policy) Boston University, Boston, MA Certificate (Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance) George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Employer and/or position: Self Employed as a Professional Leadership Coach and Group Facilitator

Served as district governor of district number: 27

Term of service: 2009-2010

In term as district governor, district achieved:


Toastmasters offices held and terms of service (international and regional level):

  • 2016-2017 Region Advisor

Toastmasters honors and recognition (international level):

  • 2008-2009 Excellence in Education and Training Award
  • 2007-2008 Excellence in Marketing Award

Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a Board member:

Over the course of my career I have served as a military commander, staff officer, scientist, program manager, policy analyst, innovation center director, team trainer, and executive leadership coach. The competencies I’ve acquired along the way have enriched my understanding, have shaped my character, and prepared me to serve you as a member of the board. If there is one lesson I’ve learned it is this — “To lead is to serve and to serve is to lead.”

What experience do you have in strategic planning?

Early in my military career, I led the modernization and reorganization of my regiment. As a principal research scientist, civilian program manager, policy analyst, and innovation center director, I was responsible for many research and development programs designed to usher in systems with breakthrough capabilities. Our plans covered change management initiatives with lifecycles that would span from 2 to 5 years. Today I serve as an advisor and leadership coach to senior executives working in the federal government, multi-national commercial firms, and global non-profit organizations. Leading strategic planning projects and change management initiatives are what I do professionally. I hope to continue to contribute to such projects as a member of Toastmasters International board of directors.

What experience do you have in the area of finance?

I’ve been a part of several executive teams responsible for the planning, budgeting, and program execution for multi-million dollar programs within the defense and national security communities. I am now retired from the military and own a profitable small business. As a volunteer in my community, as well as in several professional societies and trade associations, I share fiduciary responsibility with other like-minded and organizationally-affiliated, volunteer leaders.

What experience do you have in developing policies?

I have many years of experience in developing policy, procedures, and operational protocols for our national government, within our professional services industry, and in global non-profit organizations. Guided by the principle that policies and procedures should be developed after careful analysis and with the input from those who are most affected by such regulation, I have always tried to collaborate with my teammates as well as survey the members within the affected organization before implementing new policy. I promise to listen to all points of view and analyze the impacts of all options when deciding on what’s best for the overall organization.

What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?

I’ve learned and re-learned several lessons from my previous leadership experiences. One of my favorite lessons (and I’m paraphrasing) is this: “While on our earthly journey, if you wish to travel fast, go alone.   But if you wish to travel far, travel a bit more slowly and bring along your friends.”

What experience and key strengths would you bring to the Board of Directors?

To maintain a fit body, mind, and spirit — I practice and teach the martial art of aikido. Aikido is the way of blending with your opponent, gently redirecting their energy, and persuading them so that they no longer think of themselves as an opponent but rather they become your partner. With this style of reconciliation, we can then re-establish harmony together. I will strive to work with my fellow board members and the staff at headquarters to blend my energy with others in our culturally diverse organization.

Why do you want to serve as an international officer/director?

Several years ago after surviving a heart attack, I successfully completed cardiac rehabilitation and decided to reinvent myself. I relocated to live in a cabin one-half mile off the Appalachian Trail where I hike and enjoy a healthy, mountain lifestyle. I returned to school to become a professional certified coach. Most importantly, I resolved to help others become their very best, and launched my leadership coaching business. I learned that not only I but you can — “Be Brave, Be Bold, and Blaze Your Trail.” Allow me to serve you and help you become your very best. I need your vote.

What volunteer experience do you have outside of Toastmasters?

(Past) Board of Governors, West Point Society of the District of Columbia & the National Capital Region (Past) Board of Directors, Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association (Past) Board of Directors, Technology Transfer Society (Current) Board of Directors, Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network (MAFN) (Current) Board of Trustees, Virginia Beer Museum (Current) Steering Committee Member, George Mason University Coaching Community

Have you worked with other Boards of Directors outside of Toastmasters?

Yes and in each of the previously mentioned organizations (above), I have found that the listening, thinking, and speaking skills — learned and refined as a member of Toastmasters — have helped with the effective team collaboration needed to move these organizations toward their shared goals and future.

In your opinion, what are Toastmasters International’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?

If we are to become the first-choice provider of dynamic, high-value, experiential communication and leadership skills development; then we need to align the vast talent of our members with all other resources toward this end.

Additional information about candidate:

I aspire to become — not the world champion of public speaking — but a world-champion listener. If elected, I promise to be guided by our core values and to work with others to shape our envisioned future.