What does it mean to be a leader? Being a leader means more than just confidently leading a crowd of people. A leader is someone who leads by being an example for others, being selfless instead of selfish, encouraging others to persevere through hardships, and having the confidence to adapt to changing situations. DECA aims to foster these leadership skills and help students become better leaders. These skills can then be applied to life outside of competition and DECA; these skills can be used in the real world as students grow into adulthood. Oregon DECA has four easy steps to becoming a better leader.
The first step to becoming a better leader is to change your mindset. Leaders should be open-minded and accepting of differences in others. Leaders must strive to work hard while still maintaining a can-do and positive mindset. Having the mindset to lead can take a lot of practice and work. Changing how you perceive yourself, others, and the world starts with identifying the situations you find yourself in. Point out the things that went well in your day and the things that went poorly. Set specific but achievable goals to improve on what you did poorly and apply that same knowledge when you encounter situations that are similar. Reflecting on your life and decisions is the first step to becoming aware of your own mindset and begin changing that to grow as a person. A core value of a leader is also confidence. The ability to act with confidence and without hesitation is important in becoming a leader. Mistakes will occur and sometimes things may not go exactly as planned. Part of becoming a leader is to pick yourself back up when things go awry and set yourself up on a new course of action--even if it involves thinking quick on your feet.
The next step to becoming a better leader is to be friendly. Being friendly incorporates more than just having a positive mindset. It involves developing the social skills to talk to different audiences, regardless of age or environment. A large part of becoming a leader is networking. The more people you know, the more people know you; the more they are willing to listen to you, follow you, and familiarize themselves with you. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an extrovert to become a leader! Many introverts can still be great leaders because they are able to empathize with their audience and touch on their feelings. To be a leader, you must also be friendly in the sense of caring for others. As a leader, you will be placed in situations where you must choose selflessness as opposed to selfishness; you must do what is best for others as opposed to what is best for yourself. While that might be conference call after conference call trying to help an aspiring chapter resolve problems, in the end, your ability to be selfless and serve as a leader attributed to a greater cause, resulting in more people looking up to you as a leader.
The third step to becoming a leader is to drop your excuses! The absolute worst thing that a leader can do is let others down and create an excuse for themselves. As a leader, it does get tough; balancing your role alongside school work, extracurricular activities, and a social life can be cumbersome. That’s what makes being a leader so hard! Regardless of what you may busy yourself with, there are no excuses when it comes to being a leader. When going to conferences and representing yourself among a crowd of people, there is no excuse to not get work done, to not dress up to the best of your ability (depending on the event) or to not be responsive and friendly to those who look up to you. You will encounter people that look to you as a role model and someone they want to grow up as and excuses will only hold you back from what you can become as a leader. Following that, if you do find yourself making excuses on the concept of time, then time management is something that you must work on. If there are too many things on your plate, don’t be afraid to gauge which ones are the most important and drop the others! It is no use being a leader in several different aspects if it means performing at a fraction of your ability in all of said activities.
The last step to becoming a leader is preparation. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You never know what could happen last minute. You may spill water on your pants or drop your food on the ground at a networking luncheon. In either case, your mind shouldn’t immediately jump to a state of embarrassment, anger, or anything else negative. You should be accepting of changes in your situation and react to it be cleaning the mess and returning to your normal state of being. Sometimes preparation can be mental (as represented by the food droppage or drink spillage in the given example), but preparation can also be physical. If there’s a speech or presentation you have to give, don’t wait last minute to write notecards and practice your speech! Prepare in advance and practice your speech on a regular basis before giving it! Doing so will also give you the ability to mentally prepare yourself for the actual speech or presentation, letting you focus on keeping a stable, confident state of mind instead of having to focus on what to say next and when to click the button to change slides in a slide show.
This December, Oregon DECA challenges you to show leadership in your community. Leadership in the community can come in many different forms. It could be helping your family prepare dinner. It could be helping your school raise funds to help families during the holiday season. It could even be making food and walking around the streets providing food for the less fortunate. However you decide to contribute to the community, you’ll feel a sense of pride and happiness knowing that you fueled someone else’s happiness. That is what makes being a leader so fun and worthwhile. That is what it means to be a leader.
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