The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

29. Deshauna Barber on Leadership Lessons From the Miss USA Stage


Being a captain in the United States Army Reserve prepares you more than you might think to become Miss USA.

Both require conquering your fears, and both teach leadership lessons.

Today we’re joined by Deshauna Barber, the first Miss USA currently to serve in the United States military, who will give us a preview of some of her wisdom for the Leadercast Women event on October 18th in Atlanta.

“It was two sides of Deshauna. You have Captain Deshauna Barber, and then you have Miss USA Deshauna Barber. So it's good to show that women are diverse, and we have so many elements to us,” Deshauna said.

This is the leader cast podcast, helping you be a leader worth following. Hello and welcome to another episode of the leader cast podcast. I'm Haley Panagakus, your host for this episode. Today we are joined by Deshauna Barber, a captain in the United States Army Reserve who, in two thousand and sixteen, was also crowned the first miss us a to currently serve in the US military. In this episode I chat with Deshawna about navigating your level of influence as a leader, leadership, lessons learned from the miss us a stage, a different way to look at diversity and inclusion and more. The Shawna will join us on stage at our leader cast women event, happening live on October eighteen in Atlanta and broadcasts to locations around the globe, and we are still honored to have her on our podcast today and anticipation of her talk. So, before we dive into the episode, here is a quick ad about leader cast women and I will see you on the other side of it for my conversation with Deshauna Barber. Leader cast women is an inspirational one day leadership event featuring renowned female leaders. Male and female audience members alike leave leader cast women with the tools they need to be leaders worth following. Attend the event live in Atlanta or at a host site near you. To learn more, visit women DOT leader castcom. The Shawna Welcome. Thank you so much for being on the show. Excited to have you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to even be on this podcast and even to be able to be invited to the conference in October. I think it's going to be an amazing time. Yeah, we can't wait. So you are Miss USA two thousand and sixteen and a captain and the US Army. Those are very two different worlds and my book. So can you start by just telling us what led you down this path? So, yes, it is. It definitely is two different worlds, two different sides of the spectrum. I discovered that I wanted to compete and pageantry when I was about nineteen years old and it was something that intrigues me about it. I don't know why, I've just been forever fascinated with pageantry. I was raised in a military household. Both my mother and father were both in the army. I was raising a very militant household and when I did my very first pageant when I was nineteen, it was my real first step at femininity. I guess I don't think I had a chance to like enjoy being a woman's woman, you know, really just the dresses and the high heels, and I know that's in a way stereotyping femininity, but to me I felt more like a woman on that pageant stage than I've ever in my life, and it was because I had a chance to show sex appeal and, you know, just to show my physical fitness and so used to being modest when it comes to being in the military that, you know, I kind of felt good getting sexy and looking pretty and getting my face beat, as they say, and make hare and stuff like that. So I think it just gave me a chance to see a different side of Deshaana and it really was also gave me an opportunity to be able to see women from all walks of life being on the same stage and using pageantry as a way to not only just advance their brand but advanced their platforms and the things that they're passionate about. So I think for me it was just two sides. With deshauna. You have captain Deshauna Barber, and then you have Miss USA, Deshaun Barber. So it's good to show that women were diverse and we have just so many elements to us. Yeah, so what about the miss us a, deshauna I? was there any a major leadership lessing that you learned and your time serving as Miss USA? I don't know if it was necessary a leadership lesson more than it was...

...just a life lesson that can translate the leadership. I received a heavy amounts of backlash when I was crowned, not to any fault of my own, just because I think most of the not I want to say most, but some people were rooting for my first runner up, Chelsea Harden, Miss Hawaii USA, and I had a real my life flash before my eye play because I was so used to being loved by the people around me and I've never experienced like social media bullying before. So I don't want to say I reached a level of depression, but I definitely slipped into a space where my self esteem had been shattered the first three or four months of being Miss USA because I was just constantly being taunted online by people that felt that I was ugly and unattractive and undeserving of the crown. And I had to go through, after just being in a very dark place in my mind and in my confidence level, I had to really take a step back and say, okay, to Shawna, what is going on, and I realized that I felt like my win was not the right when for everyone, and then I realized that, you know what, that's okay. Sometimes your win is not everyone's when your whinn is for a specific group of people, is for a specific reason. Your win is not for everybody, but that doesn't mean that it's not a justified when. So that's what I had to tell myself and teach myself as a life lesson for everything that I do, not just being Miss USA, also for my promotions, for for the the jobs that I take on, for the the brand deals that I get, for for any decision that I made. That's for me. Not everyone is going to like my win, but that doesn't mean that I'm not winning and it doesn't mean that I don't deserve the win. So, for people that's listening to this podcast, they're going to be moments where you accomplish something and people are not happy for you. They are not happy ortive, they're not okay with it, they're not filling it. That is going to happen. But we have to realize in life that our win is not everyone's win, but it doesn't mean that we didn't deserve to win. So that was my my lesson for sure, and it translates into leadership because in leadership you're going to have to deal with people that you're guiding, lessons that you're teaching the people and having to tell those things to people when you're when you're guiding their decisions, that not everyone is going to support you. I think a good leader is able to tell people advice and realistic advice and be real with them that, listen, this is not something that everyone is going to be be willing to support. But that's not a bad thing. It's just not a good thing either. It's something that specifically you need to focus on you and understand that not everyone is going to be for the things that are good for you. Yeah, I think that is both an important life lesson and leadership blessing. I mean, leaders are decisionmakers and a lot of times those discisions might not be favorable by everyone. So but you know what's right for you think your organization and your team. So you you move worn. But yeah, it's definitely something that leaders have to encounter as well. Absolutely. So I know that there is a level of influence that comes with being crowned Miss USA. So how do you, as a leader, navigate that level of influence? I don't want to say I walk on eggshells, but I do make sure that I'm always thinking about being a role model. I think that when a person has influenced there is a level of responsibility to be an individual and think about individuality, but to also make sure that you remember the amount of people that have their...

...eyes on you and that you're being a good representation. So I think that my level of influence, one side, on the military and one side on the pageant tree side, is that I have soldiers that are looking up to me and then on the pageant tree side, and just in general, I had young men and women, but specifically women, looking up to me as wow, like, look at this amazing girl. That shows that there are ways to be more than one thing there. There are ways to pursue different careers and different dreams. So I think I manage that level of influence just by by making sure I'm thinking about the steps that I'm taking, the brands that I'm supporting, the things that I'm saying. I'm always focused on being as honest as possible. I'm also always focused on making sure that I am a beautiful representation of not only the uniform but also of the miss us a crown. HMM. So what is the biggest leadership lesson you've learned through serving the US Army? The biggest leadership lesson I have learned through serving in the Army I learned that leaders are accountable for their soldiers. I remember when I first took command of my unit back in twenty fourteen, I believe, yes, because I had the unit for around four years. I took the took the unit over back in two thousand and fourteen. Was My very first command, and I remember I was out at the range and my battalion commander walked up to me and asked me where two of my soldiers were and I sent them off to to medical because one of them at hurt their finger or something. I forgot what happened so long ago, but he was like, have you checked in on them, because I had been about for four hours prior and I hadn't checked in on them and he yelled at me. Who He yelled at me so bad, yelled at me so bad, and I just kept thinking to myself, what did I do wrong, like, how is this wrong? When I took care of them, they got hurt and I sent them off to get medical assistance. Why is he yelling at me? And and because I looked at him. My facial expressions are very telling, like there are a lot of people that can that can hold a facial expression. My facial expression says everything. So and I've controlling but he could tell that I was not getting what he was saying and I wasn't getting it one because he was raising his voice at me and it's very hard to listen to somebody when they're yelling at you, but also because I really thought I did everything that I needed to do. So he sat down and he's like, I know you've only had this uni for so long. It's it hasn't been a very long time and I was so young at the time, twenty four at the time, very first command. I was the youngest commander in my battalion and I remember him saying a leader is not only responsible for their soldiers, they must also be accountable for their soldiers. Must always know where your soldiers are. You must always get status updates, you must always check in on them, their families, you must understand everything about them. That's what it means to be a leader. So not only be responsible, but to be accountable. And if I ask you where your soldiers are, it's great that you know, but that was four or five hours ago. So much can happen in that period of time and I remember that always sitting with me and I was forever changed after that conversation because from that day forward, I made sure that I was not only responsible but accountable, that I knew where all my soldiers were, I knew their statuses when it comes to their jobs, I knew what's going on with their family, if they're in school. I started taking a job way more seriously because I felt like I didn't understand leadership until that conversation I realized that this isn't these aren't your children necessarily, but they are your family and you have to treat them like your family. You understand what's going on in your family at all times. So with your unit, in the unit that you're commanding. I realize it. You must treat them as your family and know what's going on with them and know what... need to do to support them and advance their lives. So Accountability for sure, biggest lesson. Yeah, accountability is so big too. So, as I was preparing for this interview, you know, I did my stocking and I saw a speech you did and which you were you equated America as a rainbow and I love what you shared and that. And do you remember the speech I'm talking about? Yes, it was my Butler University speech on diversity and inclusion. Yeah, can you alive? I love what you you said. What that? Can you elaborate a little bit about that idea of of the rainbow? And I just think it's so important for our audience. Oh, absolutely. So this speech, I think I did that. I think it was mid February and it was a diversity inclusion speech and I posted a picture and it was I used a power sometimes I use powerpoint presertations, which I might use a leader cast, I'm not sure yet. But I posted up a picture of a rainbow and I asked the audience what is this and it was a little girl in the very front row of one of the students brought their daughter and she's like it's a rainbow. I'm like, well, thank you, sweetie, you're about to prove my point. I was like why is it a rainbow? And this girl is probably like six or seven. She's like it's because there's so many colors, and I was like exactly, and I told them that since hid, since our younger ages, we know that rainbows are colorful and what makes them a rainbow are the colors. And I told them that if you remove the colors, which I posted a picture of the same shaped rainbow, but it was it was no colors and it was completely white. And I said, if we remove the colors from this shape, it is no longer a rainbow. And then I brought up the fact that when this country was founded after the revolutionary war, there have always been people in this nation of different races. There has, there has never been a point before the Revolutionary Pore where America did not have people of different races, where they're their native American, their European or their African. There people from all different consonants and I said that if we saw America the way that we view rainbows, would we really need to discuss diversity and inclusion? And the reality is that we wouldn't need to talk about diversity and inclusion if we actually saw America for what it is. In America is colorful and it always has been. If we view it that way, we no longer have to talk about diversity. We no longer need to talk about quotas on how many women, how many men, how many black girls, how many black boys, how many Asian, how many Hispanics? Like we don't need to meet a quota when it comes to the amount of employees that we have of different races. We wouldn't need to do that because we would automatically see the problem when there is no diversity in our businesses and them people that we employ. We would never need to even have this discussion. But we have the discussion because a lot of people in this country, we don't see America for what it really is, and that's a diverse nation that has always been diverse since it was built. HMM. Yeah, and I will know we do have an international audience, and now that we're talking a lot about the US, but which is a given because you're Miss USA, but I think this is something that, as a you know, from a global perspective, something that we're doing. What's so I just wanted to note that so that our intern international listeners now. But the reason I brought that up with the diversity inclusion was I was going to ask your thoughts on how leaders can support diversity inclusion in the workplace. But I think really I should ask how can we become more like the rainbow, so diversitting inclusion aren't things that need to be thought of because they are part of us. How do we get... that point? I think that it's a very difficult point to get to, if we're being honest, and it's only because our country, historically, has never been something that supports diversity. Historically, we have placed in elitist status on white males right. That's always been the the standard of the United States of America for so long, and I think that the best thing that we can do in terms of the steps we take is to not place anyone on a pedalstal to not place any race or any gender on a pedestal, and by doing that we have to realize our own implicit bias and by recognizing our bias we know that okay and even then the military. We're doing this now. I've had to get on myself. Where we go, where we're comfortable, we surround ourselves with people that were comfortable with, and it's usually people that look like us. If I'm in a room full of men, I'm going to automatically navigate to where the women are gonna sit in there down, that's where I'm comfortable. Okay, I'm comfortable around women because I am a woman. Now that is my own bias. Why is it that I don't feel comfortable walking into a room full of men and having a conversation with all the men? Why do I navigate to where I'm comfortable? So I think it starts first with checking ourselves individually and it starts with having these conversations and that. That sounds very generic, but I feel like a lot of people aren't open to those types of conversations. A lot of people, and a lot of the students at Butler University that I had a chance to talk to after my presentation, they're just kept saying, Oh, I'm so thankful I came to this, because I realize I have implicit bias. I realize that when I'm in a classroom and they say pick from a hat and there's a girl named Ashley, I might be a little bit more likely to be comfortable with her being in my group. Then if it's a guy in his name is tyrone, because I automatically associate that name with the African American male, or someone that's named at last name is Rodriguez, I automatically know that that person might be South American or from South America or Hispanic, and I feel comfortable with someone that's name is Ashley and is probably a white woman, because I'm a white woman. There was a young lady that I conversation with and she's like, I realize I had implicit bias. So I definitely going to make changes in my life and I think that the nation is such a big nation. We are a huge country, but it is very much possible if we continue to talk about diversity inclusion, we continue to push these types of courses into our universities, we have these conferences, we have these conversations. We have to work on each person individually to remove bias from their minds so that it's easier for us to see America for what it really is. And I think that once we're able to continue to have these conversations. I think that ten, five, between twenty, hopefully not thirty, years down the line, we got that's going to be pulling out my lifetime soon. I think eventually we are going to get to a point where no one is going to see what's wrong with seeing America as a colorful country. But right now we that's how we see it. Naturally, when we turn on the television, that's that's a lot of the times what we see. I actually, coincidentally, I just watched a movie called always be my maybe, always be my yet, always be my maybe one netflix. Okay, and it's such a hilarious movie. This is so offt topic, but it's still a topic and I post this on my instagram. It had two leading Asian American actor and actresses in the movie and it was a romance. And I remember posting on my instagram and I said I just watched this movie, always be... maybe, and I don't know if I have ever seen a movie that is led by two Asian Americans in a romance. I don't know, but I've ever seen it before. And everyone kept messaging me like, you know what, you're right, I don't think I can think of one, because I've seen one with with African Americans and I've seen one with with white Americans, and we're just we're talking about mainstream media. I don't know if I've ever seen and I've even seen one Hispanics, but I don't know if I've ever seen one with an Asian America. And so I tagged Netflix in my post and I said thank you for this movie and please continue to show diversity in the people that you employ to lead these movies, because there are people like myself that wants to see more diversity when it comes to our mainstream mebe media. I don't think this. As a twenty nine year old, this should be the first time I see American leads in a romance movie, like, Why is that happening? So I was so excited about it, but that just that just goes to show that diversity and inclusion it's not just about being black, it is it's also other races and ethnicities that aren't represented. Also disabilities. I don't know if I see people with disabilities that are represent in mainstream media. I don't see it. I would love to see it. I would love to see two people that are disabled fall in love in a movie? Why? Why? Is That far fetched? So what I think of diversity and inclusion, people automatically think of black and white, but it's so much bigger than that. is so much bigger than that and I was so happy to go to Butler University and to be able to have that conversation. HMM, yeah, I think getting rid of that bias definitely starts with us, those leaders. Some God that you brought that up. So we've talked about this already. We have the pleasure of having you at were cast women on octobering tenth and Atlanta and our theme for that is take courage. So, and anticipation of our event and theme, can you share a time when you faced fear head on in a moment that demanded courage? That has happened a few times and it's going to sound Cliche, but I definitely think the scariest moment in my life was standing on the miss us a stage with millions of people watching me, being a little bit scary. The only little bit, but the question that I had no idea what they were going to ask me, knowing that I had been on Youtube for the past few years watching so many pageant girls bomb on stage question and now it is a very terrifying experience and there's been a couple hiccups here and there for Miss Universe, Miss USA Miss America, where people don't always do the greatest on one stage question. It's like I don't think people realize how hard it is. But I would have to say that I had been competing for peageants for seven years and you have to win your state title before you can compete at Miss USA, and it took my seventh try to actually win miss us, I mean to actually win my state to go on to compete at Miss USA. And when I got the MIC in my hand, in that moment I felt my hands shaking and then my voice was getting very jittery, to say the loud and I was ready to say uh for the next thirty SEC hints and I remember telling myself in my mind the Shauna, this is your moment, this is a moment that isn't never going to happen again, and I told myself be strong, be fearless and tell the world what they need to hear. Tell the world's amazing things and show them exactly who you are. And in that moment. That is exactly what I did. I took that moment and it was the scariest moment of my life, but probably the bravest I've ever been, because it's just a terrible feeling to have so many people looking at you and wondering, am I going to become a meme? Am I...

...someone that is going to forever be made fun of for bombing this question? And I was. I don't know, courage is necessarily, to me, based on how you respond to fear. In my opinion, that's what I think courage is, and that's the scariest I've ever been in my life and I believe that I walked away from that moment feeling very courageous because I fought through that fear and was able to have a most one of the most epic one stage question responses I think that Miss USA has seen. And Yeah, I think that was probably my most courageous moment, because this my scariest moment. Yeah, so, with that said, would you say that fear is a good thing in leadership? Oh, yes, I think if you're not afraid, you become arrogant. I think that without fear we just think that nothing can go wrong because we almost feel invincible and that's not realistic. It's nobody is invincible. No one is immune from bad moments and bad experiences and bad reactions and bad decisions. Nobody is immune from that. So I one hundred percent believe that fear is necessary because if you're afraid of making a mistake, you'll think heavier into the decisions that you're making because you know that there's a possibility that it won't go correctly. So I think that that, without fear, leadership becomes arrogant and unrealistic. I've seen a lot of people that make decisions there like I know this is a great decision and they just without fear that this could be wrong and it in you're just not thinking straight. So I've seen that before and I think fear is very necessary to keep you human. Hut leaders need to be human and if you think that you're above your above mistakes, in your above moments where you're making the wrong decision, then that sounds like arrogance to me and I don't think that's the way to some some manage people, and I don't think that's the way to lead people. Yeah, so, based on your background and the different roles that you've played in your life and I know before we started you're talking about how you're an entrepreneur now. And so what advice would you give to a leader who's about to adventure and too uncharted territory that takes courage to be able to get where they're trying to go? I would definitely say to half faith. Oh Gosh, I would say to have faith. I think that the unknown is the scariest part of life and every day to meet there's a level of unknown there and sometimes we're we're walking into positions and we're walking into new job opportunities or walking into unknown territory in different rooms and people that were surrounded with in the decisions that we're making, and there's just something scary about not knowing what's on the other side of a decision that you're about to make. So I should say to have faith because I believe that as long as your intentions are good, good always comes of it. It just may come with a few hurdles, but I always feel people that it's so important to to not be fearful of the unknown and understand that the unknown is something that we have no choice but to encounter in life, so we might as well take it by storm. It's okay to be slightly afraid, but don't let fear be the reason why we turn our backs on possibility. So I definitely think that it's important knock doors down and push through those moments where we're afraid and understanding that everything happens for a reason, whether good or bad. Everything happens for a reason and we have to take every hurdle in mountain we have to climb with a grain of salt. MMM. So leader has our whole mission is to fill the world with leaders worth falling. So I'm curious, in your opinion, what makes the leader worth falling? I've had some terrible leaders in my..., let me tell you. I've had people of that do not deserve or do not have any business managing people, and I only say this because they're not. It's not that they were a good person, it was because they were focused on how do I make myself look good? Sometimes leaders have to make decisions for their people or for the people that's following them, and they have to put the people that's following them first, and that doesn't always make your peers happy. I've had to deal with that being a commander in my unit where I've had to make decisions where I'm putting my soldiers first, but other commanders may not like that. Other maybe stepping on the toes of other commanders, but as a leader they come first and I think that what makes a leader worth following is knowing that the person that's leading you is someone that you trust. And it is very hard to trust someone who you do not believe has your best intentions in minds. So I think that what makes a leader worth following is knowing that that leader has your best interest in mine. That is what makes a good leader your you trust their decision and you know that whatever it is that they're going to do, they have thought through it and they have proven that they always think about out you in their decisions. I have walked behind people and I've had people that have been over me that only care about what makes them look good. They don't care about my best interest, they don't care about the best interests of my family, the best interests of my career progression. All they care about is what do I need to do to look good for other people, and that to me isn't sincere. So definitely someone that has your best interest in mine. Is someone that has proven to be trustworthy well, thank you so much for being on the show today. We really appreciate you taking the time and very much looking forward to your talk at leader cast women in October. Thank you so much. I cannot wait. Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in today. You can learn more about Deshauna by visiting her website at Deshaunacom, and you can also follow her on Instagram at Deshauna Barber. Again, you can hear deshauna speak live at leadercast women two thousand and nineteen, happening October eighteen in Atlanta and broadcast to a location near you, so visit Women Dot leadercastcom to purchase your tickets. Please share this podcast and subscribe so you never miss an episode, and we will see you next time for another episode of the leadercast podcast. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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