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  • Writer's pictureJazmin Jernigan

Defining A Leader

Defining A Leader

2017 Student Leadership Awards

Keynote Address by Jazmin Jernigan

Hello and thank you for having me today! I’d like to begin by thanking all the stellar faculty and student leaders being recognized today for their contribution to the community. More than anything, an effective leader is characterized by selflessness, service to others, and having a heart for the greater good. Again, my name is Jazmin Jernigan—and I’m a 2 time LSUS graduate, small business owner, a creative professional and member of the LSUS Alumni Board of Directors. I didn’t plan for this campus to be such a landmark in my life but nevertheless, I’ve seen some of the most effective examples of leadership right here.

Most people don’t know it—but the very first time I set foot on the LSUS campus I was a middle-schooler enrolled in an awesome summer program called LaPREP. Fast forward to 2005, I enrolled to complete my undergraduate in Fine Art, and shortly after I came back to get my Masters in Business Administration. Outgoing introvert that I am, I’d like to share some insight onto what my LSUS experience at has taught me, and perhaps challenge how you define what it means to be a leader.

If asked to paint a portrait of leadership, some descriptors may include bravado, confidence, popularity, charisma, innovation or exceptionalism. John Quincy Adams said, if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then you are a leader. Today I’ve got 4 insights to help you blossom in your roles as future leaders of our community and this campus.

1. The Power of A Vision

I believe very strongly that we all have the ability to shape the quality and condition of our lives by using the power of positive thoughts. Everything starts as a vision in your mind! Somewhere along the way, we filled out an application or committed to our education, enrolled in a class because you had a vision for ourselves and we formulated a plan based on that vision. Truly great leaders are able to translate a shared vision from thought to action. To do that, clear communication is key. Speak it, write it, draw it—whatever it takes to make your vision a reality to others. But don’t forget, communication isn’t all about talking—remember to spend more time listening to your team and getting feedback, than barking orders or convincing others that you’re right. Strive to be inclusive in developing visionary leadership. While doing group projects in my graduate studies, I quickly realized that the more successful group leaders purposely engaged each member and incorporated their feedback to make the overall presentation better.


Some would say that could describes my baking attempts—but in all actuality, GRIT is the combination of passion and perseverance over long periods of time—and it is the single biggest predictor of success in any undertaking. There are many factors that contribute to succeeding in our academic careers or our community organizations. On one hand, there’s raw talent and access to resources and opportunities. But it is your GRIT as a leader that will set you apart from the rest of the crowd. Passion is infections, and perseverance demands respect. Great leaders juggle family, career, mission statement and difficult decisions, but they pushed through the roadblocks. Moreover, The ultimate outcome is to empower those that take the journey with us! Remember: we’re in a marathon, not a sprint. Set your sights on a goal, and let your passion shine!


Entrepreneurship can be a challenging and lonely road. I started freelancing while in my undergraduate studies in 2005, which led me to officially starting my business in 2008. That’s 10 years of failing forward, learning with peers and mentors, and teaching those that have come after me. So as a leader, it’s important that we have a growth mindset as we tackle the inevitable challenges that will come our way. A growth mindset is the idea that the Ability to LEARN is not fixed, and can change with effort. Failure is NOT a permanent condition! In fact, FAILURE is vital to our success as leaders. It is how we learn, grow and get closer to our goals. More than that, being able to admit your weaknesses and strengths to your team, helps to build trust and confidence among a group. So let’s all agree that our failures are just precursors to our greatest successes.


Last but not least, a great leader must be service-oriented. Community service has always been important to me, but getting involved in student government and campus activities really helped to cultivate my desire to make my community a better place. While volunteering, I’ve discovered some of my most meaningful friendships, profitable business relationships, and personal growth. I’ve learned the most about myself while teaching and sharing with others. Roosevelt said that the difference between a leader and a boss was that the leader leads, and the boss drives. Leading a team may start with delegating tasks or keeping everyone on track, but the most important outcome is empowering people to shine in their own unique talents. The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is always a servant.

So, what does leadership look like for you? Whatever the portrait you paint, communicate your vision clearly. Listen as much, if not more than you speak. Let your passion shine while you gracefully fail forward. And show up ready to serve. You’re all making an impressive mark on this campus community and wish you the best in all your undertakings.

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