What Does it Take to Be a Leader?

One hundred and four high school student delegates - two from each state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity - take part in the 55th annual United States Senate Youth Program held in Washington, DC on March 4-11, 2017. (© Photo by Jakub Mosur and Erin Lubin).

Originally published in Northern Wyoming Daily News – January 29, 2018

Wyoming’s first national Family, Career and Community Leaders of America president, Grace Anderson, had a defining leadership moment as an eighth-grader that helped her become the leader she is today.

Anderson, a high school senior who attends the Wyoming Virtual Academy, spoke to Worland High School students interested in FCCLA Thursday morning. She said her first leadership defining moment was when she had a coach tell her that she didn’t have what it took to be a leader.

“For me, that was tough. I realized I had a decision to make. I could either let what my coach said about me define me or I could choose for myself whether I was going to be a leader or not.”

She said that same year she joined FCCLA and learned that leaders are made, not born. She began her leadership at that point, becoming chapter officer, district officer and then elected state vice president.

It was her election as state vice president, where she learned further leadership skills. She said she wanted to be elected state president. “Being state vice president was a humbling experience,” she said. She said when she walked on stage was feeling somewhat sorry for herself for not being elected president but then realized that “was a sucky attitude.”

“I realized I shouldn’t let a title define my leadership, just like I couldn’t let what my coach said define me,” Anderson said. She said once she realized that she made that year her best year.

“My encouragement to you is never doubt what you can do, and never let a title define you,” she said.

Another encouragement to the students, was making sure they have a support system. She said when she was going to run for national president office, she told her advisor she was thinking of pulling her application. Her advisor told her she would do no such thing.

“It’s so important that each and everyone of us has a support system like my advisor and my parents and the people who have affected me. They will help you. There’s going to be times when you feel like you just can’t go on,” Anderson said.

She said that support system can be a “best friend, parents, a teacher, coach, hair dresser or dumpster guy.”

As national president, Anderson said she has realized how important leadership is and that it is much more than a title.

She listed four leadership keys that she has learned during her tenure as national FCCLA president.

  • Instead of asking why, ask why not. Ask why not do this, why not try that, why not go to this place. She said asking why not helps open up a person’s perspective and see a totally different side to things.
  • Don’t miss out on anything because you’re tired. She said she believes in a good night’s sleep but never use lack of sleep as an excuse. She asked the students to think about the time spent on staring at a screen — TV, computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.
  • She said people can use their time more wisely. A person can run three miles in 30 minutes, reading 15 minutes a day a person can read 20 books in a year, it takes less than five minutes to write a thank-you note and in less than two minutes you can make your bed.
  • Don’t listen to doomsayers and naysayers. Anderson then told the starfish story of starfish washed up on the beach and one young girl was seen throwing them back into the ocean one at a time. A man asked her why she was doing it, that the task was too big because there were too many. As she threw one starfish back in the water, she told the man that what she had done mattered to that particular starfish. As she kept going the man soon joined her and then others joined her and then all the starfish were returned to the ocean.
  • The story, Anderson said, shows that one person can make a difference in someone else’s life, and that small, seemingly insignificant act can have a profound affect on others.
  • There are two sides to every story. She said it is important to listen to all sides. Listening doesn’t mean you agree with someone but that you’re showing respect to them by listening to their side.

Anderson will graduate from the Wyoming Virtual Academy May 19, the first student to have her entire schooling online, she said.

Her plans are to attend Liberty University in Virginia and she is considering a double major in political science and communication, or perhaps the family and consumer science program. She also wants to minor in computer science.

Her ultimate goal is to get into politics, first as a state legislator, then secretary of state and then governor, and she said, possibly, the White House as president.

Anderson is getting plenty of political experience. She started at a young age helping her grandparents campaign for Ron Micheli. This year she will serve as a page at they Wyoming Legislature and she hopes to one day be an intern for one of Wyoming’s senators.

On her 17th birthday she was able to last year meet President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. This year on her birthday is when she will be at the Wyoming Legislature.

“I believe public service is important,” Anderson said, noting people can serve in the military or serve in public office. She said while she respects the military and what they do, she knew that wasn’t for her so public office is the next option and one that she seems to be well-suited.

Anderson serves as national FCCLA president until July but she will then serve as past-president and still have an active role at the national level.

To learn more about Wyoming Virtual Academy visit http://wyva.k12.com/.

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