Genevieve Piturro: 5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry

An Interview With Dina Aletras

Dina Aletras
Authority Magazine
14 min readJun 28, 2024


Share your story, understanding that the world is driven by emotion.

Sharing our stories is what triggers momentum that can move the world. Our personal experiences and goals will attract like-minded people who will power our visions. Sharing the highs and lows of our journeys will resonate with other leaders, resulting in mutual trust and respect. I soon learned that fear and doubt did not belong to me alone. They are often the emotions that open the door to communication, inviting others to help ease our burden.

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Genevieve Piturro.

Genevieve Piturro is a TEDx speaker, 7x award winning Amazon bestselling author, leadership consultant, and the founder of the national organization, Pajama Program. Her journey has taken her from a little girl’s question in a homeless shelter to OPRAH to boardrooms and stages across America to teach Purpose, The Human Connection, and How to Be a Voice that Moves the World.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us! Our readers are eager to learn more about you. Could you provide some background information about yourself?

My idol growing up was TV’s Mary Richards! Played by Mary Tyler Moore, Mary was an independent woman who boldly moved out of her comfort zone to make her own way — and she did, after all. The first of four children born to an immigrant Italian father and a traditionally Italian mother, I aways felt steered toward the roles of wife and mother. But I had Mary on my mind and, like her, steered myself toward a career as a busy, ladder climbing TV executive. I was a successful V.P. in New York City for 12 years when an inner voice challenged me about the life I was building. “If this is the next 30 year of your life, is this enough?” was the question I instantly knew came from my heart voice. Moments later my mind brought me back to a news report I had seen days earlier about police removing children from an abusive family and taking them to a shelter for safety. I called the shelter and soon began reading bedtime stories to the children there. One evening when I said goodnight to the staff. I saw the children sleeping in their day clothes. On my next visit, I brought them pajamas. One little girl shied away from me when I attempted to hand her a pair of pajamas. As I gave the other children theirs, I noticed her in a corner watching me. I smiled at her and started to slowly walk over. As I knelt in front of her and promised her the pajamas would fit, and that they were hers to keep, she looked at me shyly and whispered, “what are pajamas?”

That little girl’s question rocked my world. My need to make sure these children went to sleep in warm, cozy pajamas feeling seen, comforted and loved, became an obsession and I soon jumped off the corporate ladder and founded the national organization I called, Pajama Program. This year, the Program celebrates 24 years, having delivered more than 8 million pajamas and books to date. In 2020 I passed the baton of Executive Director and now work with leaders in all sectors to create a legacy by aligning their goals and vision with others for the greater good.

What establishes you as an authority on thought leadership? Could you briefly share your expertise with our readers?

In 2021, after 20 years as Executive Director, I passed the baton of ED and now speak, teach, and write about how to embrace the power of purpose-driven leadership and the human connection for success. I help leaders and organizations in every sector connect and align their purpose with what is most important to their vision, management team, staff, communities, and the greater good.

My first book, sharing life and leadership lessons I learned through my Pajama Program journey, Purpose, Passion and Pajamas: How to Transform Your Life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning, debuted during the Covid shutdown. I was terrified of the timing, but as it turned out, my book’s message and Heart of the Matter lessons dovetailed perfectly with our Nation’s growing interest in finding purpose and rekindling our human connection. My TEDx talk: “1 Idea + The Human Connection = 7 million Pajamas” debuted with my book. My second book, Purpose, Passion and Moxie: How to Lead the Way and Leave a Legacy, a workbook to help you start a nonprofit from scratch to success was released September 2023.

To assist others in creating a shared culture by aligning their goals with the goals of their employees, I created and facilitate the Purpose ACER business training program and 12 Masterclasses, and I’ve produced and hosted two national Purpose Summits in New York.

Can you recall a funny mistake you made when you were first starting out? What lesson did you learn from it?

Securing the funding for a start-up can be a challenge, especially for a nonprofit in its early years — and during a recession. I remember addressing this topic with more desperation than usual at a Board Meeting in 2010.

“We need a new way to raise money,” “I am out of ideas.”

There was silence and my stress level was rising fast. I was the one who usually had ideas but not this time. Finally, a Board Member boldly said,

“Let’s go bowling!”

“Does anyone even BOWL in New York City??!! I laughed out loud. “I know people bowl in OHIO, because when I visit my friend there, we bowl, but in New York City?!” (There was chuckling)

I shot the idea down with a 2-minute routine about my dad’s stint on the TV show, Bowling for Dollars somewhere in New Jersey. Our family was in the audience, and we had to stand up and introduce ourselves on the show. My dad got a Spare and we all went home with logo’d knit hats and scarves.

“Yes, WE DO bowl in New York City,” our Board Member said. “And if nobody has a better idea, let’s do it. We’ll ask everyone we know to come and give what they can.”

All eyes turned to me. “OK, let’s bowl,” I whispered.

The near mistake I made by quickly shooting down someone’s idea could have stopped us from growing our donor base through the power of the human connection. Our Bowling fundraiser did not raise a million dollars, but it raised something much more valuable — morale. Turns out we offered what many people in New York City were looking for in that dire financial atmosphere — a relaxing fun night out with friends while at the same time supporting a good cause. For weeks to come, people new to our organization who attended our event made donations and spread the word. That night wasn’t about bowling, it was about trusting each other to keep our dreams alive.

To this day I am proud to say, “We DO bowl in New York City, and we love it!”

What are the most significant disruptions you foresee in your industry over the next five years, and how can businesses adapt to these changes?

I think there is one significant disruption we see now which will continue to trigger future disruptions — that is the move by so many from working at a job we tolerate to finding work we find meaningful within an organization that aligns with our life goals and purpose. We have started to see businesses transform their cultures to meet the expectations of their rising stars and new hires. As more entrepreneurs who value purpose and legacy start businesses, options for employees will expand.

Can you explain the benefits of becoming a thought leader? Why is it valuable to invest time and resources into this?

I see a thought leader as someone who sets heartfelt intentions and then puts a plan into motion that leads the way for progress while contributing to the greater good. These voices that move the world are crucial now more than ever as so many of us feel the pull toward a purpose-driven life. We are looking for leaders with integrity, whose values align with ours. Thought leaders who care about their legacies inspire us to think about “success” differently, beyond careers and personal gains. Their passion motivates us to embrace and share our own dreams, paving the way for more harmony and diverse voices.

Can you share an example of a significant challenge you faced in your career and how you leveraged innovative thinking to overcome it?

Jumping from corporate executive to nonprofit founder was a massive leap of faith I was not prepared for, practically, financially or emotionally. I had to manage a new-found obsession, learn new rules, bury my fears, trust my heart over my head, ask embarrassing questions, answer even more embarrassing questions, navigate a personal financial downfall and survive (barely), all as I uncovered the real me. I was facing fundraising, volunteer and marketing challenges and the solutions I had turned to in my corporate world weren’t working now.

I had to find a way to open the doors to the support and guidance I needed. I knew it was time to tell my story about the little girl and risk my emotions coming through. Tears filled my eyes every time (they still do), and I often had to pause mid-sentence to regain my composure. To my surprise, my emotions resonated with those I shared my story with and bonds were formed, bonds that opened doors.

Now that we have covered that, we’d love to hear your advice on becoming a thought leader. Can you share five strategies that someone should follow to gain recognition as a thought leader in their industry? Please include examples or stories from your own experience for each strategy.

Five strategies for a thought leader to be a voice that moves the world:

1. Listen to your heart voice to find purpose and others will respond with empathy and support.

Little did I know that when I followed my heart to find more meaning in my work (and life), others would be inspired to make their own change. When we encourage one another to listen to our hearts, we ignite feelings that prompt us to share our dreams and bond over how to bring them to fruition. It took me a long time to tell anyone that I was leaving the corporate world to start a new organization in a totally different sector, but when I shared my new vision and how it made me feel, I found community.

2. Inspire others to live with integrity that goes beyond self-interest.

To be an inspiring leader, our vision needs to lift people by creating an atmosphere of comradery, support and hope that serves all of us. I had no idea that by embracing my own purpose, those who were helping me would also discover the fulfillment they were seeking in their own lives. And that’s when I learned the most important life and leadership lesson that I share every chance I get: “It’s not the Power of One that changes things, it’s the Power of One-ANOTHER that moves mountains and moves people.”

3. Share your story, understanding that the world is driven by emotion.

Sharing our stories is what triggers momentum that can move the world. Our personal experiences and goals will attract like-minded people who will power our visions. Sharing the highs and lows of our journeys will resonate with other leaders, resulting in mutual trust and respect. I soon learned that fear and doubt did not belong to me alone. They are often the emotions that open the door to communication, inviting others to help ease our burden.

4. Seek guidance and insight from others who have successfully propelled their vision to serve the greater good.

As one person with just one story, I knew it would be impossible to achieve my lofty goal of attracting the extensive help I needed to make a difference. I soon sought advice from the inspiring and long-time leader of Dress for Success, Joi Gordon. Joi shared her knowledge and ideas to help me create my own path. Just having someone in my corner who was ten steps ahead of me gave me the confidence I needed to take my own next step.

5. Be a Mentor to others who are committed to move the world forward with ideas of their own.

Since Covid, so many of us sense the urgency to fill our work and lives with deeper meaning — and we’re inviting others to join us in creating lives that bring us joy while benefiting others. Recruiting sponsors, staff and volunteers for Pajama Program taught me that while I was in need of support and fulfillment in my work, others were seeking the same. Now when I extend invitations to new groups to join projects I’m involved in, I know we are creating a stronger network of leaders who share one intention.

How do you foster a culture of innovation within your organization, and what practices have you found most effective in encouraging creative thinking among your team?

Inviting unique ideas to the table is the key to developing a creative team. Growing Pajama Program was a 20+ year group lesson in “creative thinking.” We continually looked for innovative ways to get the job done, inviting all involved to share their ideas with no fear of embarrassment. Of course there were ideas we could not put into place, but the trust we built within our team was strong. We bonded knowing we had a niche organization with a unique premise, so no idea was too “out of the box.” And I attribute much of our success to the willingness of our team to jump in with their ideas and to support each other in using their voices to move us forward.

Today I base my work with leaders in all sectors on fostering a culture that welcomes unique and untested ideas. Supporting all voices boosts self-esteem and reignites our commitment to the vision and goals of leaders we trust and respect. Practices I have found to be most effective in encouraging creative thinking among teams are:

* Welcoming imagination as a driving force for innovative ideas

* Learning why each team member feels connected to the organization’s purpose and encouraging them to come up with ideas from their own connections

* Encouraging respectful communication on the pros and cons of all new ideas

* Researching and sharing unconventional ideas that took other companies to new heights

* Inspiring your teams with your own stories of how and when you suggested a new idea and why it worked — or didn’t.

* Debriefing as a group when an idea fails so it is a learning experience for all.

* Inviting ideas that will change the organization’s status quo to make space for growth where it’s needed

Who do you think is an outstanding example of a thought leader? What specific qualities impress you about this person?

Richard Branson is an incredible thought leader who values family, community, and service while continuing to pioneer new concepts within his industries. His leadership inspires others to be innovative, bold and true to themselves. He upholds his legacy with respect and is a true voice that moves the world. To me, these three quotes speak volumes about how he leads and lives his life:

  1. The most successful people in history have always improved the lives of those around them. You can’t take money and material goods with you when you die, but if you give back to the world, your legacy lives on.”
  2. “Overcoming fear is the first step to success for entrepreneurs. The winners all exemplify that, and the hard work and commitment they have shown underlines what is needed to set up a business.”
  3. “I hope that we still talk face-to-face when it matters — to me there is no substitute for human connection. Technology is great for keeping in touch across long distances or in different parts of the world, but I would always rather be across the dinner table having a chat with my wife Joan than texting or on the phone.”

How do you stay informed about the latest trends and developments in your field, and how do you incorporate this knowledge into your strategic planning?

My clients are the sources I trust when it comes to staying informed about the latest trends and developments in my field. I want to know my clients’ visions, goals, and communication channels; where their organizations have been, where they are now, where they want to be, and what stands in their way. I can see the trends in our field by how my clients flow, take a step back, and pivot to move their organizations and industries forward. All this information gives me the knowledge I need to help them define their strategic plan while keeping my own work relevant through industry changes.

Some people feel that the term “thought leader” is overused and has lost its impact. What are your thoughts on this?

“Thought leaders” are experts in their fields, opening our minds to new ideas and fresh perspectives in various industries. Now we see leaders who are paving the way for all of us to seek more meaning in our lives. They show us that to find the freedom and peace we are craving we need to rely on our hearts to discover purpose — and then we need to share this purpose for greater impact. To Be a Voice that Moves the World is a concept that I believe moves us to serve the greater good by cherishing our purpose and embracing the human connection.

How do you balance short-term business goals with long-term strategic vision, especially in a rapidly changing market?

In this time of great flux, what needs to remain intact is our vision. Traditional solutions that once kept our goals on track are not working in the work environments we’re now encountering. As we travel rough paths together toward our short-term goals, we need to take more risks, try new and untested ideas to reach our next step, and this takes courage. When we reflect on our shared vision and respect the work we are doing together, we can navigate an unchartered course that takes us to our goal.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? How has it been relevant in your life?

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” (Susan Jeffers) and “Do it afraid” (Joyce Meyer) have both reminded me time and again, that so many extraordinary goals and destinations we set our sights on are waiting for us at the end of a terrifying walk! Going from corporate executive to nonprofit founder wasn’t easy, but after massive fear and doubt, countless sleepless nights, and tears that could fill the Atlantic, I overcame challenges I thought would ruin everything. I met each frightening turn with faith, determination, and moxie. And I can tell you, there’s no more rewarding, joy-filled life than the one you take a chance on!

Many influential figures in business and entertainment follow this column. Is there someone you’d love to have lunch or breakfast with? They might notice if we tag them.

Richard Branson

How can our readers further follow your work online?



Genevieve Piturro


Genevieve Piturro

Genevieve Piturro


Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful. Thank you for this opportunity.

About the Interviewer: Dina Aletras boasts over 20 years of expertise in the corporate media industry. She possesses an in-depth understanding of growth, strategy, and leadership, having held significant roles at some of the UK’s largest media organizations. At Reach PLC, the UK’s largest tabloid publisher, she served in various director capacities. Additionally, she held leadership roles at The Independent Magazine Group and DMGT. Her extensive knowledge spans editorial, digital, revenue, sales, and advertising.

Upon relocating to Switzerland, Dina took on the responsibility of managing and promoting the international section of Corriere del Ticino — pioneering the English page “onthespot.” She also was the Co-Editor of Southern Switzerland’s first official Italian and English bilingual magazine.