In Honor of President’s Day – How Has a Leader Impacted Your Life?

Empowering Extraordinary[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]HROUGHOUT MY LIFE, there have been many great leaders that have influenced and shaped the way I am today. Some, like my father, I knew personally, and others, well, a passing experience that had a profound impact upon my view of the world. When I peruse the many articles on leadership and what it takes to be a great leader, two memories arise from the depths that I want to share.

President Kennedy was my father’s idol. My father placed a great amount of hope in this leader of our country. The day Kennedy was shot, my father rushed home, grabbed me around my waist, pulled the chair up close to the new TV he had recently purchased for our home, turned it on, and kept telling me, “You have to watch this! You have to watch this!”

Sitting on my father’s lap, being held close against him, I could feel the shock in his body and hear the devastation in his voice. The footage of Kennedy being shot played over and over, while tears rolled down my father’s cheeks. I’m sure the memory of Kennedy agreeing to write the forward to my father’s book, “New Mexico’s Troubled Years,” and sitting in the oval office with him while he wrote a personal note in the book for each of us children, (there were 7 of us) must have been playing throughout my father’s mind while witnessing this tragedy.

My parents along with Robert O. Anderson and the President in the Oval Office
My parents along with Robert O. Anderson and the President in the Oval Office

Not too long after the assassination of President Kennedy, my father hosted a party at our family home for the new president, Lyndon Johnson. My younger sister and I were told that when we came home from our ballet lessons that we were not allowed to go into the living room. Even at 3 and 5 years old, that was a challenge we had to take on. When we arrived home, the living room had been transformed into a banquet room. There were long tables covered with long white linens and gourmet food arranged buffet style that we just had to taste.

Being the youngest of seven children, we learned how to “not get caught” by our mother when we were going to break one of her rules. While peeking around the corner, we saw our chance to dive under the long tablecloths that almost touched the ground and scurried towards the middle, thinking this would be the best spot not to get caught. We watched as feet came up to the table and then walked away. Finally, I saw my opening and reached my hand out to try and grab some food. All of a sudden, there were two very large black shoes inches from my arm. I quickly snatched my arm back in, when a large hand grasped the linen, raised it up, and peeked underneath. We were caught! There was President Johnson, smiling at us. “Hi girls. What are you doing underneath the table?” I explained to him that we were forbidden to be here and we were hiding from my mother. He then inquired, “What do you want?” We told him some of the yummy food. He made a plate of food for us and while bending down and handing it to us with a smile, the all too familiar delicate feet in high heel shoes of my mother were standing next to the big black shoes of President Johnson. We heard my mother say, “President Johnson, what are you doing?” While holding our breaths, we heard him explain to my mother that he was helping us. Our cover broken, President Johnson asked my mother if my sister and I could join the party which we did. As we mingled with the adults, I kept looking at this man who continued to come over to us and ask if we wanted anything else.

My parents standing with President Johnson in the living room of our home
My parents standing with President Johnson in the living room of our home

Here are a few things that I learned from my father, President Kennedy and President Johnson. First, from my father, I learned always ask and never think that someone, just because of status, is unapproachable. From President Kennedy, I learned that a great leader inspires, is open to saying yes, and that a leader is never too important or too busy not to take the time and make someone’s dream come true. From President Johnson, I learned that, to a great leader, no one is too small or unimportant not to be asked what do you want or need and then metaphorically welcome them to feast at your table. As our constitution reminds us, all of us are created equal which equates to treating everyone with dignity and respect regardless of status. I am honored to have been influenced by these three leaders, and am aware that what might seem a small gesture could have a powerful impact upon their life.


Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph.D.
Melinda Fouts, Ph. D., International Executive Coach, Psychotherapist is a select Columnist & Featured Contributor for BIZCATALYST 360° and a Member of the Forbes Coaches Council (comprised of Top coaches offering insights on leadership development & careers), and founder of Success Starts with You. She was recently chosen to receive the Empowered Woman of the Year Award for 2021 given by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). She also received the honor as the top international coach of the year in 2020 by the IAOTP. She provides visionary leadership in her field and her many credentials prove she has the ability to empower women worldwide. Her exemplary role as a female professional in a male-dominated industry displays her influence, capability, and proficiency. Inclusion with the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) is an honor in itself, only a few women are chosen for this distinction based on their years of experience, professional accomplishments, academic achievements, leadership abilities, and contributions to their communities. With innovation and compassion, these women empower others to reach their goals, while creating change for future generations. With over 2 decades of professional experience as a business coach and psychotherapist, Dr. Fouts has proven herself as an accomplished professional and expert in the field. As a dynamic, results-driven leader, Dr. Fouts has demonstrated success not only as an Executive Business Coach, but in every role she has held. Prior to executive coaching and leadership development, Melinda has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for over 20 years. She leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness. Owner and founder of Success Starts with You, is based upon the premise that you are already successful. Increasing self-awareness to increase emotional intelligence and unlocking blind spots are paramount to continued success. Dr. Fouts leverages her strengths and insights from her psychology background to help leaders and managers in transition through increased self-awareness and discovering their blind spots. It can be lonely at the top and as a thought partner, she makes sure you are not alone. Dr. Fouts’ unique approach from other business coaches is that she helps get rid of thinking and behavioral patterns that tend to keep executives stuck. Her key areas of expertise include but are not limited to: small business consulting, enhancing emotional intelligence, self-awareness, unlocking fullest potential, brainstorming, identifying limitations, challenges, obstacles and optimizing performance. In addition, her successful career as a Psychotherapist and International Executive Business Coach, Dr. Fouts is a sought-after speaker whose key-note address to Women’s Leadership Conferences is Channeling Feminine Power in the Face of Adversity. Her newly released book, Cognitive Enlightenment, was to be presented at the London Book Fair, March 2020, the NY Book Fair, May 2020, and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2020 until COVID hit. Melinda received her Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology from Saybrook University and her Masters in Psychology from Pacifica University. Melinda has worked as a consultant with executives and businesses for over 20 years. As a result of her experience and studies, she has developed a unique craft to fine-tune leadership development for peak performance. She lives in Colorado with her big, beautiful dog, Stryder. For more information on Dr. Fouts please visit:

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  1. So many people we experience in our lives and so few leave that ever-lasting impression that guides you forever, and you are so thankful for. My dad for teaching me manners and respect, but showing me that no matter where you come from or level of education, perseverance gets you what you want in life. Bill Heaney, my first boss taught me that that every situation in your life can be looked at in so many perspectives…there are 2 sides to every coin. Bob Dirks…professionalism, commitment and caring about your people. He loved Hilton in the deepest way possible and taught me to love it too. Eric Long…quality, perfection and vision. Always surround yourself with the best, but have a plan in place to keep you on road to the goals you want to achieve. Thank you to all.