Aim High in Leadership and Life

For the second time in as many weeks, Foxcroft had the pleasure of hearing an Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellow address the community. This time Deborah Lee James, 23rd Secretary of the Air Force and author of Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success (2019), delivered the keynote presentation during our school-wide Leadership Day.
“Aim high is basically shorthand for my philosophy, my approach in life, you might say, on leadership,” explained James, “as well as on finding personal and professional fulfillment. As a philosophy, it is really centered first and foremost on the value of people, the importance of communications, our relationships in life, and our own personal growth.”

Using lessons learned from her life and career, James offered the audience her Aim High formula for personal and professional fulfillment, presenting three essential actions and strategies for accomplishing each. 

Those three essential actions and her strategies for each included:
  • Chart/navigate your course with purpose
    • Always have a plan A and a plan B
    • Focus on your relationships: Find a mentor (teacher, parent, neighbor, a friend’s parent)
    • Hang in there with positivity, especially during tough times
  • Teamwork
    • Speak up and listen deeply – “Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo ever, but do so respectfully.”
    • Model ethical behavior – “Once you lose your integrity and the trust of others it is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to rebuild. It’s simply not worth it.”
    • Play to your strengths, but always recognize the team – “Know what you're good at but be self-aware and leverage the team in areas where you are not as strong.”
  • Get things done
    • Five-step repeatable problem-solving strategy: Investigate, Communicate, Activate, Iterate, and Follow up. 
Our students were clearly engaged and inspired. Following her presentation, James took multiple questions from students covering a range of topics, from challenges she faced in her different roles to what obstacles they might overcome themselves in pursuing opportunities in their professional careers or with the government or military. 

“My challenge to all of you is this,” offered James in closing. “I would ask each of you to think about what I've said and take one or two of those strategies and start putting them into practice in your life, in your interactions, and in your relationships. Then step back and see what happens. See if these strategies can help you find your voice for good at Foxcroft and beyond.”

 In addition to her keynote address, James spoke with our student leaders and Honor Council about using your voice for good and modeling the behavior you seek in others. 

“Her leadership experience was invaluable and the emphasis that she placed on human connections and successful leaders’ ability to communicate and inspire was incredibly helpful to me as a leader upholding the honor system at Foxcroft,” offered Honor Council Chair Claire H. ’21 when asked about the workshop with James. “She pointed out how important it is to be upfront and to make sure that we as Foxcroft members walk the talk and work to establish a community based on trust and respect.” 

The Alison Harrison Goodyear ’29 Fellowship program, offered through the generosity of the family and friends of Alison Harrison Goodyear, Foxcroft Class of 1929, brings distinguished speakers and provocative performers to Foxcroft to deliver a keynote address and conduct small group seminars with students. Fellowship recipients during the program’s 50-year history include such remarkable voices as Maya Angelou, James Baker III, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Sally Ride, Barbara Walters, tech entrepreneur Sheena Allen, hiker, author, and National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Jennifer Pharr Davis, and most recently “Hello Fears” founder Michelle Poler, GenHERation founder Katlyn Grasso, NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin, The Social Institute founder Laura Tierney, and Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University Dr. Marcia Chatelain.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.