What The First Black Female Brigade Commander, Sydney Barber, Can Teach You About Success

Midshipman 1st Class Sydney Barber is the first black woman to assume the top role of leading students at the U.S. Naval Academy as Brigade Commander. 

Achieving this is no easy feat…

You see, this role is the highest leadership position within the student body. It’s a semester-long position selected through an application and interview process by senior leadership and the commandment staff. 

But that’s not all…

Sydney took on the new role at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, which, you can imagine, was a difficult time to navigate. 

Her story is inspiring and shows you what you can do with the right drive, attitude, and influences around you.  

How A Passion For Service Can Shape Your Life

Sydney discovered her passion for service in middle school, frequently helping at shelters and soup kitchens. But there was one story, in particular, that impacted her heart the most and made her realize her calling to serve.

She had gone to India and stayed at an orphanage for girls. These girls had no home or family to care for them and relied on what the orphanage alone could provide. Over time she built up a good relationship with them, but there was one girl who often sat alone and was very hesitant to talk to Sydney. 

Over time the girl began to open up and share with Sydney what was troubling her. All she had wanted was a new pair of slippers. She’d been so hopeful that she might receive them but sadly, she was still waiting for someone to offer that kindness to her because she had no means to get them herself. 

It was a truly humble wish and made Sydney realize the importance of not taking things for granted. She swore, from that moment, to always look for opportunities to serve and give back to others.

Getting The Job Of Brigade Commander

Serving as a part of the Naval Academy was always an honor, but when she heard the news that she had gotten the role of Brigade Commander, she naturally felt a little scared. 

The responsibility of this role led her to have some doubts, and insecurities started to creep in. However, she reminded herself that she had not applied for the position lightly. She had prepared herself wanting to make sure that she was mentally prepared and ready for the role. 

Influences & Mentorship Can Drive You Forward

If you’ve got strong influences in your life and a solid mentor then it’s much easier to move forward and become successful. 

It’s no different for Sydney and she is thankful for those influences that have helped her along the way.

Guided by her mentor, Ms. Janie Mines, she helped Sydney to prepare mentally for the role of Brigade Commander. Janie was the first ever African American female graduate of the Naval Academy and fully understood the pressures of what Sydney was facing. She shared her experiences with Sydney and highlighted how important it was that she moved forward and represented other young black women.

She was instrumental in encouraging Sydney to apply. And it was in part Janie that made Sydney realize just how ready she was for it. 

As well as Janie, Sydney had her sponsor mom, Capt. Tasya Lacy. She also motivated and encouraged her to grab the opportunity with both hands. 

With such strong influences driving her forward, Sydney took on the role confidently, knowing that she could bring something unique. Not least for being the first black female but also because she’s a strong leader. 

Meditation & Faith

Sydney is an avid journal writer and encourages others to do the same because journaling allows for self-reflection. 

Reflection and prayer are the two main things that kept her grounded and motivated her as a leader. Her faith is her main priority, believing that she always ends up walking the correct path because of her reflective nature and dedication to prayer.  

Growing up, you can become very insecure. Sydney herself felt like this and for a long time she felt that she was on the fence, unsure of her capabilities. 

Fear and doubt can become a mentality. 

What’s been beneficial for her journey is knowing that if she stays true to herself and owns the person that she is, she can walk with her head held high, with strength and dignity.  

One bible verse that she often draws on is Proverbs 31:25: ‘She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.’

She likes this particular proverb because she can visualize it. The cloak wrapped around her protects her against things that cause her anxiety. She also loves the idea of laughing without fear of the future. 

Final Thoughts

So what makes Sydney Glad To Be Here? 

To put it simply, she feels blessed. 

The responsibility of being Brigade Commander is huge and she fully understands the weight of it. Armed with the knowledge that many women before her have struggled to achieve similar accolades, she feels incredibly proud to represent them. 

She is thrilled to be someone paving the way for other women, just like her mentors.

Sydney is always thinking about how she can be the best leader, especially for the generations coming after her who will sit in her chair and who will walk the same halls at the Academy.  

She’s Glad To Be Here to represent all those who follow in her shoes!

Listen to the High Performance Zone Podcast with Gucci and Sydney on Apple Podcasts Spotify or YouTube.