Spotlight: Ani Yazedjian

Yazedjian joins 2012 Leadership Texas Class, inspires future leaders

image of Ani Yazedjian

Dr. Ani Yazedjian

By Catherine Harper

From the single mother who makes life-changing decisions each day to the military commander leading troops into battle, leadership comes in many forms. For Dr. Ani Yazedjian – faculty member of Texas State’s School of Family and Consumer Science and a member of the 2012 Leadership Texas Class – leadership is a learning process.

Yazedjian was selected to join the elite network of over 5,000 women as a member of the 2012 Leadership Texas Class in January 2012. The theme for this year’s class is “Texas Women Leaders: On the Highway to a Fast, Forward Future.” With a background in lifespan development and family relationships, Yazedjian is bringing her research to the forefront as an inspirational woman leader.

Read a Q&A with Ani Yazedjian about her Leadership Texas work and her take on leadership below.

TXST: How were you chosen to be part of the 2012 Leadership Texas Class, and what do you hope to learn?

AY: There was an application process through which I applied and was selected — 115 women were selected throughout the state to participate.  I hope to learn about leadership. As a faculty member, I spend a lot of time doing my job and not really learning about any skills or strategies associated with becoming a good leader. Through those conferences, hopefully I’ll be able to learn more leadership strategies, discover my own leadership abilities and interact with other women who are also leaders and learn strategies from them that are effective regardless of profession.

TXST: What opportunities have you found so far through this year’s Leadership Texas Class, and how does the class hope to inspire future leaders?

AY:  I am getting to meet a lot of people who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. It’s really interesting to see different manifestations of leadership. There was one woman who spoke about what she imagined the future to be, which is her job — to help businesses brainstorm about the future. It was very different and kind of challenging for me to think about. How do I prepare my students for the future if we don’t even really know what it’s going to be like? It’s changing so fast. As far as inspiring future leaders, it’s a little early to know how we’re going to leave our mark as a collective class, but what they really stress to us is that we’re part of a broader network of 5,000 other women — not just our class. In that sense there are definitely opportunities to use that network for good beyond our group of 115 people.

TXST: How have you grown as a leader with your work as a faculty member in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, as a Presidential Fellow and as Special Assistant to the Provost?

AY:   I wouldn’t have been able to apply for Leadership Texas if I hadn’t had the opportunities through Family and Consumer Sciences. I think being in this department has definitely opened those doors for me. Building on that, I think the research that we’ve engaged in and the fact that I’ve been successful within my research has opened other doors to some administrative responsibilities at Texas State, which then really opened up the door for me to get into Leadership Texas. I think it’s been multiple steps. Recently, I’ve definitely been challenged more than before because I’ve been exposed to new things that I had never experienced before.

TXST:  What do you think makes a great leader?

AY:  One of the questions we talked about at the conference is: Are leaders born or are they made?  I think that many leaders are probably born with something. It could be a drive or an innate ability to be a good speaker or to see the world in a certain way and make things happen. I think people who ultimately become leaders are put into situations where that potential develops. There are people who have that innate ability and haven’t been put into a situation where those skills have come out. One of the things that we talked about is that these situations don’t always have to be positive, like if someone mentors you and you become a great leader. A lot of great leaders come out of adverse situations.

TXST: In your view, is leadership learned or earned?

AY: I think leadership can definitely be learned. I think you can learn it, but there needs to be something to build on. Otherwise, I think it’s very challenging for people to be in a leadership position. If you don’t have that drive, or whatever it is, I don’t know if you would last that long. I think people who are leaders — they enjoy it. There’s something about it that they like because that innate part of it makes it fun for them and motivates them. I don’t think that leadership is earned, but respect for you as a leader is earned. There are many people who are leaders and are not respected. You earn it by demonstrating that you are a good steward over the responsibility that you’ve been given.

TXST: How does failure play a part in good leadership?

AY:   If you’re going to stretch yourself so you can grow, the potential for growth is always accompanied by the potential for failure. You have to be willing to fail but then look back and see what led to that failure, and then use that, and use what you’ve learned from that, to build on future success.

TXST: How can students build good leadership skills?

AY: I think you just need to start small, and you need to develop your leadership skills in the contexts that are around you. If you’ve never had leadership experience, you’re probably not going to be elected as student government president and you might not be effective even if you are. I would suggest to students to get involved in student organizations or in your major. Volunteer for stuff – even if it’s one project, start there. Take some leadership for one project and build your resume that way because you have to experience some success in your endeavors. Start with situations where you know you can be successful but they will still stretch you. Don’t do something you already know how to do, but step out of your comfort zone – get stretched. That will motivate you to go after the next thing and the next thing and keep building yourself as a leader.

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