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Women of Influence

Intelligent, Innovative and Inspiring

Article by Kristen Wojdan

Photography by Dr. Laura Sherwood

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

Author John Maxwell says, "Great leaders know that leadership is not about authority or a title. Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less." We spent some time with six influential women who love and serve Frederick County in a myriad of ways. Their influence is far-reaching with intention and impact that is nothing less than inspiring. We hope you enjoy getting to know them in their own words. 

Marlene Young

President, Delaplaine Foundation, Inc.

Proud to have been born and raised in Frederick County!

What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

It means putting the welfare of others above self for a greater good. Influence in leadership holds the potential to affect positive change and impact the lives and careers of others. That influence belongs to those who lead by example in the pursuit of shared goals with unwavering conviction, courage, confidence and humility in the steadfast pursuit of excellence. It means understanding the dynamics and needs of the community by being keenly connected, listening and observing intently, inviting input and collaboration, thinking critically, planning strategically and mobilizing resources to meet goals. It’s being able to passionately, purposefully build and nurture relationships while being respectful of the inherent dignity of all. It sees challenges as opportunities that refine us with the resolve to work hard, inspire and empower others to accomplish outcomes that add value to organizations, lives and communities. It is the ability to ask the tough questions, have courageous conversations, set a vision, establish strategic goals and work to make a positive difference. It’s about embracing that which unites us, welcoming diverse perspectives and backgrounds. It is governed by the values of accountability, integrity, transparency and decision making through the lens of inclusive, equitable treatment of all people as stakeholders in the commitment to preserving public trust. “Leadership is influence” is about playing a critical role in shaping a brighter tomorrow in an ever-changing world and being grounded in gratitude for the opportunity and privilege to make positive and lasting differences as a community changer and champion.

Who would you consider a person of influence in your life and why?

George B. Delaplaine, Jr. is a person of influence in my life as an exceptional, career-long mentor. He has afforded me great opportunities in professional development and by extending trusted autonomy to me in accomplishing meaningful outcomes throughout my career. He consistently set a high standard for excellence and community service, instilling values that helped shape my career. One example is the guiding principle that an influential leader is vigilant and devoted to building not only the financial bottom line, but also in building up humankind through service to others.

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

Be intentional and persistent in building your network! Relationships are the foundation of learning, growing and advancing. Seek out those who are worthy role models and emulate their qualities, inviting their wisdom, guidance and critique. Be committed to lifelong learning. Become a servant leader so that as you help others, you earn respect and trust. Invest your time in the lives of others. In so doing, you infuse joy into life and add purpose to what you do personally and professionally.

Timika Thrasher

CEO, Boys and Girls Club of Frederick County

Co-Owner, Thrashers Cleaning Service

Frederick County resident for almost 30 years

What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

Be a fearless leader. Leading by example. Be a supportive leader. Be compassionate. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Who would you consider a person of influence in your life and why?

I would have to say, my children. I’m learning from them every day. They are teaching me to be a bolder, but better person from the inside out. Having to parent in this world today is different!! My kids remind me daily of why my family is everything to me!

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

Believe in yourself first. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Keep your eye on “your own prize”. Whatever that looks like. Find your people that support you and lift you up, keep them close!

Shana Knight

Frederick County Office of Economic Development - Senior Business Development Manager for Diversity & Inclusion

SOUL Street, Co-Founder

Frederick County resident for 20 years


What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

To me, “Leadership is Influence,” represents the energy a leader embodies and how that energy affects others. All energy, both good and bad, is contagious. As a leader, it is important to authentically lead by example while harnessing positive and optimistic energy when serving or influencing others. A great leader can balance out a stressful situation by remaining calm. A great leader can energize others by showing enthusiasm. A great leader can change the world by leading with kindness. A great leader is self-aware and understands the impact their energy has on others.

Leading with influence is also understanding that cultivating leaders is more important than cultivating followers. A great leader leaves others feeling inspired to do more and builds others up rather than leaving them discouraged or feeling belittled.

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

The advice I would give to younger women who aspire to be leaders is to always be authentic. Each person has something that the world can benefit from, and you can only access that gift through being your true, original self. Learn to love who you are and show up as her—boldly and unapologetically!

Meaghan Delawter

Founder/Owner of d|law 

President of Key City Rotary

Born and proudly raised in Frederick County!

What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

“Leadership is Influence” means leading from the front. Set the example and don’t let the naysayers and the doubters control the culture you want to create in your team/organization. In order to get your team to reach their full potential, YOU have to maximize your full potential. If your house isn’t in order, your team isn’t in order. Get your proverbial house in order! (Heck, get your real house in order, too!) You gotta get right to do right! If you don’t have a routine, your team isn’t going to have a routine. If you aren’t organized, your team isn’t organized. If your team isn’t seeing you at maximum performance, they won’t maximally perform. If your fear is driving you away from success, you’re driving your team away from success. You must connect with your team and exhibit healthy vulnerability. Talk with them, not at them. Organize with them, not for them. Perform with them, not them performing for you. If you don’t lead from the front, someone else (or something else) is controlling your organization. 

Who would you consider a person of influence in your life and why?

My husband, Will. He steadies my world when it shakes and he throws me toward every fear from which I would otherwise run. When I doubt what can be done, he shows me it can be done. When I feel like I am unqualified, he highlights my qualifications. When I lack the confidence, he brings it back to me. He is my influencer and motivator. 

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

You don’t have to drag others down in your race to get to the front. Healthy competition is good; destructive competition is not. Lead from the front and allow others to run alongside or trail. Your elevation of others will force you to elevate. Besides, if you drag others down in your race to get to the front, who will be there to pick you up when you fall? 

Ashleigh Kiggans

Vice President, MacRo Commercial Real Estate

President of the Board, Mental Health Association

Committee Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Frederick County Association of Realtors Committee Member on DEI at Maryland Realtors 

Trustee at Community Foundation of Frederick County

Board Member at Frederick County Chamber

Board Member at Soul Street

Frederick County resident for 12 years

What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

In reading this quote, “Leadership is influence” means the literal words—leadership IS influence. A strong leader to me, is someone who can give a little piece of themselves to those they encounter. Whether it’s knowledge in your profession or a small piece of personal advice, the hope of a leader is to leave a small mark on everyone and everything they encounter.

Who would you consider a person of influence in your life and why?

Professionally, I would consider Rocky Mackintosh to be an influential person in my life. Personally, my mother. She raised my brother and I as a single parent, with no child support, on a teacher’s salary. She gives me my drive in life.

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

I would tell young women who aspire to be leaders that every negative comment you receive on your way up is just another building block toward the top. Always try to find the positive in the good and the bad. Your experiences are what will help to build you as a strong leader.


Protean Gibril

President of the Board, African American Resources and Cultural Heritage Society (AARCH Society)

Frederick County Art Circle, Member

Air Force Art Society, Member and Contributor

Jack and Jill of America, Inc.,Western Maryland Chartering Member 

Frederick Civil Air Patrol, Maryland Wing 003, Parent Volunteer

Mount Airy resident for 23 years

What does “Leadership is Influence” mean to you?

I believe that true leadership influence is the ability to change people's fundamental beliefs or their overarching view. Gaining influence as a leader can be a solitary experience, especially when you are advocating for change, offering different perspectives or disclosing crucial details about your teams' future plans. I have served in a number of various capacities on boards, task forces and commissions, each of which has its own unique dynamics. Yet, regardless of the group's composition, the leader's empathy for and ability to steer the group toward its goals is always a constant. Each day, and oftentimes each hour, I face fresh tests. Both internal and external forces have a continuous impact on our teams, workplaces and individual lives. It's crucial that I exhibit empathy for my teammates and for myself in light of the possible impact of all these circumstances. I make an effort to empathize with others since doing so strengthens our team's capacity to overcome obstacles. Compassion and influence are two of the most powerful leadership traits, and it often takes the form of small gestures. An affirmative nod, a change in the tenor of a conversation or something equally inconspicuous might spark a major shift in the way someone behaves. 

Who would you consider a person of influence in your life and why?

In addition to my parents, Dorothy-Ruth Ruffin-Mabry and Oscar Lewis Mabry, Sr., many other persons have had a significant impact on my development. I have eleven siblings, all of whom are influential members of their communities; and if I could wave a magic wand, my parents would both still be alive and guiding me today. My Dad was in the Air Force's 17th Motor Transportation Squadron and was also a fantastic farmer. In the sixties, there was just one black doctor and one black-owned hospital in my hometown of Tarboro, North Carolina. My mother was a private duty nurse for the doctor and his family. All the extra effort put in by my parents made a world of a difference, and they supported me and my siblings in all our extracurricular pursuits at home, at school and in the community. Their involvement as parents was crucial, and they were also highly inspirational to the other youngsters in the community. 

What words of advice would you give to young women who aspire to be leaders?

Young women who are exceptional in a variety of ways share a few traits, such as a strong sense of self-assurance, the ability to persist through challenging circumstances and an unbreakable spirit. If you have these traits, which are the things that make successful people stand out and you can be sure that no one will ever question how smart you are. If you do not possess these traits, feed off what you can and never give up or in. No cloud lasts forever, so don't choose to stay in it. Learn more about who you are at your core.