By Kizzy Kittrell Dogan

If you are growing up in a household similar to the one I grew up in, chances are you have heard the statement “Be a Leader and Not a Follower” quite a bit. Ironically as annoying and misleading as that statement was for me growing up, I find myself uttering those exact words to my children often. Just as I make it my duty to remind my sons of the importance of being a leader and not a follower, I thought it was imperative to shed light on this very topic in my book Thirteen: Lessons for Every Teen Girl’s Journey to Womanhood. An entire chapter dedicated to this topic in the book reinforces to young girls that we all possess leadership qualities, and we should embrace these qualities with certainty and confidence.

As stated in Thirteen, I didn’t’t understand the significance of being a natural-born leader growing up. My teachers deemed me a leader as a teen, but I didn’t’t always consider what were outstanding leadership characteristics. Perhaps because I didn’t receive the proper tools to lead boldly and decisively, I couldn’t’t always show up as the true confident leader that I was born to be. Since I didn’t hone my excellent leadership skills until much later in life, I am passionate about encouraging young people to become great leaders and embrace the importance of making good choices and decisions early on.

Leadership is about empowerment, inspiration, and service. As leaders, we must lead with discipline, principle, purpose, and passion. As a leader, my goal is to create the next generation of leaders. I strive to usher in a manner that allows the next generation of leaders and decision-makers the ability to confidently make choices that align with their goals, morals, and values always. As leaders, our duty and obligation to our tribe is to lead without manipulation, with morality, respect, honesty, and integrity. Be mindful that great leaders are great communicators and listeners and understand the importance of seeking help when necessary.

To my introverts and loners, you might think that you cannot be a leader because you don’t have a crowd of friends following you or waiting on you to decide the plan of action for the day. Despite what you may believe, not following the group shows character, strength, and outstanding leadership qualities. It takes courage and an extreme skill-set to show up as your authentic self, reject peer pressure, and not conform to the crowd. Staying true to your core is brave. Walking to the beat of your drum does not make you weird. Contrary to popular belief, it makes you a trailblazer!

The number one takeaway I want for every reader is to understand whether being a part of the “in-crowd” or a “loner” be encouraged and inspired to make your own choices and listen to your inner voice instead of the voices of your peers. Trust yourself enough to choose for yourself, and don’t allow others to sway you in the wrong direction. You are capable of being the captain of your ship.


Kizzy Kittrell Dogan is the author of Thirteen: Lessons for Every Teen Girl’s Journey to Womanhood, The Chief Executive Officer of T&G Commercial Cleaning, LLC, the Founder of Love Circle Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit organization geared for boys and girls who lost a parent before adulthood, and a certified Event Planner.​  Kizzy proudly sits on the St. Margaret’s Achievers Toastmasters International Executive Board and volunteers with the Youth Leadership Program. She is an advocate for second chances, a philanthropist, conference and seminar enthusiast, and is extremely passionate about inspiring, motivating, and fostering the best qualities in everyone.