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A Message To Inspire Women To Lead: Own Your Awesome

Soccer midfielder Julie Foudy (right) cheers her teammate, Tiffany Roberts, during the WUSA All-Star Game in 2003.
Al Bello
Getty Images
Soccer midfielder Julie Foudy (right) cheers her teammate, Tiffany Roberts, during the WUSA All-Star Game in 2003.

People often ask me: What's the best lesson you learned after almost two decades on the U.S. women's soccer team?

I'm fairly certain they want the secret formula to winning. Instead, I tell them, the best lesson I learned is actually a secret about life.

And that lesson came to me while watching my incredible teammates do their thing, on and off the field. Sure, I loved that they were amazing athletes, and we were winning World Cups and Olympics together. But I was most impressed that they were even more amazing human beings who led in a variety of ways.

Now that was a complete shock to me — the diversity of leadership styles — because I had always thought leadership was positional. I'd always thought leadership was a CEO or president or person in a position of power. And honestly, to me that meant a man — because that's what I was reading about in history books growing up.

But my U.S. teammates showed me that leadership is personal, not positional. They showed me that asserting your own leadership style is most important — being authentically you.

You could be a quiet leader like Mia Hamm, a vocal leader like Abby Wambach (or, let's be honest, "Loudy Foudy"), an emotional leader like Brandi Chastain, a cerebral leader, a nerdy leader, you get it. You just had to find your unique approach, your way. No need to be a celebrity or a leadership expert, you just had to care enough to raise your hand.

Ah, yes, that whole raising your hand bit. It can be scary for women.

We love to make sure all the boxes are checked — that we aren't just prepared, but over-prepared before we raise our hand. It's that discipline that I love most about women, but it's also what holds us women back the most because by the time we raise our hand, that opportunity is often gone.

Yep, we women are great at underselling ourselves, and not so great at owning our awesome. My motivation in life is to get all women to unleash that inner force.

Not in the sense that you have to wear a T-shirt proclaiming your awesomeness, or walk around telling everyone you're the bomb diggity, but in a way that allows us to step out of our comfort zones, stand up for something or speak out for someone.

Whether you empower one person or the free world, that is leadership. Because if I can own my awesome — and you can and we can get more young people to do it, too, and then use that to do some good — well, that's a world I want to live in.

So let's start now shall we? Go on. Go be courageously and fabulously you. Because you can.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Julie Foudy
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