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“I now live in the house that was on my vision board 10 years ago,” testified actress and comedian Tasha Smith on June 3 at the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASAP) 2016 Student Leadership Conference at Bowie State University.

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Smith said leadership is simple; either you’re born with it or you’re not. You cannot become a leader you just are one. She identified five critical characteristics that she believes every natural born leader possesses.

Leaders have a vision.

Smith said she faced poverty, was subject to physical and sexual abuse and battled a drug addiction, but despite her adversity she always had a vision. Her vision was one that showed there was more to life. She had dreams of acting.

“I now live in the house that was on my vision board 10 years ago,” said Smith. She encourages all leaders to have a plan and a vision to achieve their goals.

IMG_1689Leaders are fearless.

“You can’t be afraid of the word ‘NO’,” said Smith. There will be bumps along the road, but you must push forward.

At the age of 15 Smith said that she met actress Tisha Campbell and invited her to dinner at her house. Though she was nervous she took a leap of faith and Campbell agreed. Smith said she was mortified when a roach flew across the room during their dinner, but because of her fearlessness that dinner date blossomed into a 30-year-old friendship that helped launch her career in the process.

Leaders are themselves.

Many can hear Smith’s voice ringing in their ears easily while reading, “MAAARRRCCCUUSSS.” Smith said she never shied away from her roots because who she was is what landed her where she is. She brings an authenticity that cannot be denied.

Leadership is the same. Be yourself, always. People will follow in your footsteps.

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 Leaders are patient.

“Do not expect instant gratification,” warned Smith. She said that too often we start things and do not follow through because we don’t see results are quickly as we would like. Everything that we do is a seed. Yourself, your dreams and your visions are all seeds. “Don’t let someone else get your harvest,” Smith said. If you start something finish it. Leaders complete their mission at hand.            

This years’ NASAP Student Leadership Conference was hosted at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It united over 40 historically black colleges and universities, hundreds of student leaders representing their respective Student Government Associations’, Student Activities Boards’ and National Pan-Hellenic Councils’ while celebrating its 20th anniversary.