I still remember the day I walked into my eighth grade agricultural class to discuss a speech topic with my ag advisor. I had never successfully given a speech in my life. I received the opportunity to try the Discovery Speaking contest through FFA. I told him that I wanted to give a speech, but I didn't know what to talk about. He replied with conviction, "You should talk about cattle because they're your passion." It dawned on me that cattle are, in fact, my passion. I don't really recall what else I talked about in that speech.
I do remember the encouragement from my advisor, and this seemingly inconsequential experience started my love for leadership. Deciding to give a speech was my first move as a leader; I was doing something to get out of my comfort zone and make a difference.
Since then, I have thought about leadership often, and my interest in the subject has grown. Now, I have developed a leadership philosophy that I would like to share. I'm a strong believer that every individual has a different perspective on leadership, but here is mine:
Leadership is a full-time job
This is a sentiment that I first heard from my ag advisor. It is one of his signature phrases that was instilled in my mind. I find it to be so true. I believe leadership begins from within. I need to know who I am before leading others, and I need to feed myself before pouring into others. Knowing that leadership is a full-time job helps me in my daily life. I often ask myself, "Is this something a leader would do?" I live as a leader in all areas of my life, but I know that I make mistakes. A strong leader works to correct those mistakes and learn.
Compassion is one of my values, and I lead with compassion as well. I want to accept all people. I want people to know how valued they are. Making others feel loved is accepting them without knowing who they are. Making others feel valued is knowing who they are and seeing their worth. I want to lead with empathy and kindness. When I walk into a room, every stranger is simply a friend that I haven't met yet.
A value that I have gained throughout my experience as a state officer, transparency has become very important to me. Transparency is what happens when trust and honesty are put together. I will be transparent with the people in my life; I strive to live genuinely and authentically. I know when I am being inauthentic, and I make an effort to correct that. Living with transparency helps to avoid conflict and build relationships within a group.
All the positive things I have received in my life have come from my own hard work. I work hard (and with grit) to achieve my goals and earn success. I'm a fan of the concept of servant leadership. I don't want to supervise; I want to do the work, too. I would not ask my followers to do something I wouldn't do myself. I have also learned recently that it's good to know when to get out of the way. As much as we all want to be hands-on and do the work, we can't always do that. Sometimes there is someone in the group whose talents will accomplish the task better than mine. Know when to let others take the lead.
These four ideas are what I center my vision of leadership around. I also believe that leadership grows fluidly and constantly. Tomorrow, my perception may change. Ten years from now, I will have a different philosophy. But, this is good, I will grow as a leader.
I stated earlier that I had never successfully given a speech in my life. I think I once earned a red ribbon in a 4-H speaking contest, and I steered away from public speaking. Taking the chance to speak again in eighth grade was my first step towards leadership. Without taking that growth opportunity, I wouldn't be the public speaker that I am today. I wouldn't have become the leader that I am. I got out of my comfort zone, and I will find other opportunities to do the same.