I still remember my first encounter with a Florida FFA State Officer team. The year was 2008 and I was attending the 80th Florida FFA State Convention as a sixth grader. I remember being completely captivated with the entire first general session. As I watched the team perform reflections and opening ceremonies, I remember thinking, “That is what I want to do. State officers must have it made! They spend their entire year enjoying the spotlight and the praises of thousands.”
Now that I am 42 days in to office I realize that my job as a state officer is so much bigger than those four days of convention and a jacket that has “State President” embroidered on the front of it. And I say this as a warning and to give guidance to those of you who will one day desire to serve in a Florida Association jacket, because your year of service is truly a year of service, and is not about you.
Recently our state officer team attended two Florida FFA Leadership camps, as well as the Citrus Expo. During all three events our team worked diligently at all times doing jobs that many would not enjoy. During one occasion at the Florida Leadership Adventures camp our team helped perform a relay race that included slime, canoe races, and very messy slip-n-slide. The race went well, the kids had a great time, and I was completely covered in slime. And I knew at that point I had just enough time to go back to the room, take a shower and a nap before the banquet that night. Then I looked around me. The LTC was a mess and I knew that as someone who saw the problem that it was my responsibility to help fix it. So I began hauling chairs, folding giant tarps, picking up canoes, cleaning off residual slime from the walls, collecting random shoes laying around the stations, and the list goes on and on.
But I can’t say I did all this with a smile. I was infuriated. I spent the next two hours cleaning up the entire LTC and fixing messes that I did not make when I could have been taking a hot shower. That day I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted everyone to know how selfless I was because I just cleaned up his or her mess. I thought in my mind that I deserve a round of applause because I fixed a problem that I could have just ignored. Surely, the servant leadership award should go to Brandon McKee.
I finished the job, took a shower, and prepared for the banquet that night. I waited to be thanked for my efforts, but no one noticed what I had done. I stewed in my anger for a moment, but then I remember a line that I learned from this past state officer team.[blockquote size=”full” align=”left” byline=””]“True leadership is untitled.”[/blockquote]
Yes, I did a job that most would not have enjoyed doing. And yes, for the vast majority of Florida’s 17,000+ FFA members, they will never know half the work that a state officer will put into this year to serve them. But I have come to realize that leadership that is truly selfless does not need a limelight to perform. My heart that day may not have been in the right place, but I am so thankful for that experience because I needed to be taught a lesson about selflessness.
As an FFA member this next year you have countless opportunities to have a moment where you can shine bright with your leadership. But I hope you realize that the work you will put in this next year that will go unseen is even more valuable to your year of service in your chapter. Take a lesson from me: you can do all the right things, but if you do them for a pat on the back and for recognition then your service may be hindered. Selfish leadership is impure, but selfless leadership is pure and withstands any accusation or criticism.
I hope I continue to grow and have these experiences because I will be the first to admit that there is plenty of room in my life for growth. I challenge you today to go lead untitled. Serve your family, your chapter, and your friends, despite the praises you may or may not receive. True leadership is untitled, and selfless leadership is pure in heart. Do something good for someone else without them knowing it today!
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” – Mathew 6:19-21