Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Utilizing Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Do what you can with what you have where you are." Each person on this planet has been blessed with different talents and strengths, and each person has their own unique weaknesses as well. Dean of Students, Vernon Heperi, came last Wednesday to talk to us about utilizing these strengths and weaknesses as a leader. 

One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:27 which states, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble... for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." I love BYU because of the fact that we can incorporate the gospel and the spiritual aspect of life into everything we do. Our weaknesses are given to us to provide us with the opportunity to grow, to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and to reach our full potential. But we need the Lord's help. As we turn to him for guidance and support in overcoming our weakness, we can also reach out to others and help them in their efforts to do the same.

In our society today, particularly with women, we have a great tendency to compare ourselves to others. As Brother Heperi put it, we actually are comparing our weaknesses with another person's strengths. When we focus on this comparison or only see the weakest parts of ourselves, we focus more on ourselves than on improving the world around us. Elder Glen L. Pace said, "Our condition is frequently misdiagnosed as humility when it is really a lack of confidence." In contrast, if we are not careful, our own strengths can also turn into weaknesses when we place ourselves or our abilities above the Lord and become prideful. Both a lack of self-confidence and pride can cause a person to place too great focus on themselves rather than on the people around us.

As a leader, it is important to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses so that I can best serve those I lead. I also think that knowing the strengths and weaknesses of those I work with is important to effectively helping others become leaders. As we all come to understand each other's talents and abilities, I can delegate to those who can complete certain tasks in the best way, but also find ways for people to grow in their areas of weakness. 

An assignment we had this past week was to complete a SWOT analysis. This is essentially a worksheet where you list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and look at each area to see where you need to stretch yourself. The opportunities and threats were also interesting to examine; these areas are essentially the applications of strengths and weaknesses into my daily life. Finding my own capabilities helped me discover that I am good at a whole lot more than I may give myself credit for. But there are also my weak spots that I need to overcome. As part of the analysis, we had to set a few goals for ourselves that would relate our SWOT to our visions. This was an extremely helpful exercise in setting down some guidelines that would help me to improve myself.

In closing, I want to share a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I believe in myself. I do not mean to say this with egotism. But I believe in my capacity and in your capacity to do good, to make some contribution to the society of which we are a part, to grow and develop, and to do things that we may now think impossible."

That is being a leader: recognizing that while you do have shortcomings, you also have strengths that can help you as you lead people around you. And as you grow and develop and overcome those weaknesses along with the help of the Lord, you will come closer to reaching your full potential not only as a leader, but as a child of our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The director of BYU Women's Services, LaNae Valentine, spoke to us last Wednesday about motivating others. This is key to becoming a leader: not only motivating yourself, but also being able to motivate the people you are leading and serving to do what needs to be done.

We talked about the motivational qualities of various leaders in history. Perhaps the most effective method used by these leaders was that of inspiration. Inspiring those you lead is key to motivating them. But how do we inspire people?

Abe Lincoln and Captain Moroni are excellent examples of how we can inspire people. Both of these leaders had a cause that they were passionate about, that they felt was morally right, and that other people could believe in as well. President Lincoln believed in abolishing slavery; Captain Moroni had the Title of Liberty that stated, "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" (Alma 46:12). Both inspired people to these causes not just because of the cause, but also because of the kinds of people they were.

Think of the leaders in your life. Chances are they are people of integrity, people who serve, trustworthy, perhaps even good friends. In order to effectively motivate people, a leader must be a person of good character that others look up to. In a clip from the film "Henry V," King Henry gives a speech just before the Battle of Agincourt. In his speech, the king makes several references to the unity of his "band of brothers." By not letting pride get in the way, King Henry places himself on the same level as the other soldiers and can therefore inspire them to his cause. A leader's character is key to motivating; as David McCullough said, "Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do."

Sister Valentine spent part of the lecture motivating us to support "Voices for Courage," a group that works to create a non-violent environment, particularly when it comes to abuse. Throughout the lecture, I could easily tell that she believed in this cause; her passion came through her stories, facts, and her questions to us about how to deal with certain situations. Another thing she did was inform us about the problem so we could see the purpose in her cause. Being informed about the issue made her lecture more persuasive as I could now see a problem that needed to be resolved instead of just being told to support a cause that I couldn't see a purpose to. Sister Valentine also brought it to our level by asking if we knew people who had suffered from abuse and how we helped them. Despite it being BYU, I was kind of surprised at the number of people who could speak about the subject. It helped me to realize that this really is an issue that should have come to my attention long ago and that can happen even in the BYU bubble. Before the lecture, the professor gave an introduction to Sister Valentine that made me have greater trust and know her a little better before she even began to speak. Knowing her character also helped her to motivate us more effectively.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Just to start off, I'd like to point out that I am one of those people who detests making decisions. I'm the person who goes to a restaurant and will get the same thing over and over again because I can't stand having to decide again. And when I do need to make a decision, I take forever to choose. Maybe that's why I'm struggling with choosing a major...but that's another topic. This lecture and lab were, therefore, incredibly helpful and great reminders for my personal life about the importance of making choices.

Bro. Nathan Ward from Student Leadership came to speak to us on Wednesday on, yep, decision-making. First off, Bro. Ward shared this definition of making choices: "the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios." we went over why it's so hard to make decisions. This is mainly because of limited time, limited information, fear of consequences, disagreement, and uncertainty. I personally struggle with the uncertainty of making choices, especially with not knowing about how my choice will effect the outcomes. For example, I'm hesitant ordering new foods at a restaurant because I have no desire to get food poisoning. On a larger scale, I am uncertain about what I really want to do for the rest of my life so selecting a major is an incredibly difficult decision for me to make.

So now I have a definition about what I'm doing when I have to make a choice and I know why it's so difficult. But how do I go about making the decision?

One thing Bro. Ward mentioned that stood out to me was that decision-making is a process, not an event. I think I knew that in the back of my mind somewhere, but it had never really occurred to me that I go through a process every time I have a choice to make. A lot of the time we go through the process subconsciously, like when we're deciding whether or not to brush our teeth or if we should wear a coat outside. But for other things, like choosing a major, there's a long process involved before a choice can be made.

A quote from President Theodore Roosevelt: "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." The overall goal in decision-mkaing is to get things done. We can't spend our entire lives dwelling on the fact that we might make the wrong decision. It's okay to do that; everyone makes mistakes. What's not okay is letting that fear overtake your ability to ever get anything done.

In the lab on Monday we talked about ways to choose the best alternative. There's a list of pros and cons, making a decision matrix (which involves math so probably not the best way for me), and reviewing the consequences of each decision. But the best way to get help and eventually come to a decision is to turn to the Lord. President James E. Faust stated, "How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn’t enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration." The most reliable source of help is the Lord. He will guide us as we humbly and sincerely ask for his guidance, particularly in the most challenging life decisions that we must make. 

In closing, I'd like to share a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte: "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." 

I've got a ways to go, but hopefully as I use the techniques I learned about this past week and turn to the Lord for a little extra help, I can become a more efficient decision-maker and therefore a more effective leader.

Extra Media

In the lab last Monday, we watched this video clip from a BYU devotional that Elder F. Enzio Busche gave a few years ago. It is an absolutely incredible talk. Please take the time to watch the video.

Also: here's a link to a fantastic article for young adults about making important life decisions. The quote from President Faust about decision-making came from this article.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tom Holmoe

The BYU athletic director, Tom Holmoe, came to speak to us this past Wednesday about various topics. The overall topic was about teamwork, but he talked a lot about relationships, particularly the relationship a leader has with other people.

Bro. Holmoe went over 5 stages of relationships: Surface, Structure, Secure, Solid, and Significant. As a leader, I will have relationships in all five of these categories, but we should always be striving for the significant level. Here, your relationship lifts all parties involved to a level they couldn't achieve without the other person. I looked at what my relationships were with the girls in my hall, with my siblings, with my parents, with people in my classes, and other random people that came to mind. I found that I still have a ways to go before I reach the significant level in most of my relationships. One thing Bro. Holmoe said that really stuck out to me was his statement, "You have the ability to change relationships." I tend to be the person that waits around for someone to come up to me, but this really made me realize that as a leader, I need to be the one who takes the first step towards forming and building those relationships with everyone around me.

The other thing Bro. Holmoe brought up that really struck me was about two different kinds of people in the world: firefighters and firelighters. Firefighters are people who keep throwing cold water on your fire, who put you down, make you feel  bad about yourself, etc. Firelighters on the other hand, are those who encourage, strengthen, and help to keep your fire lit. I have been thinking this past week about where my relationships fit. Am I a firelighter or firefighter? I hope I am a firelighter most of the time; I love helping to build people up and share that light of Christ by helping others realize that they do matter in this world.

Along these lines, we discussed the importance of surrounding yourself with firelighters. We watched a clip from the movie "Facing the Giants" where a coach inspires one of the football players to do something he didn't think was possible. As a leader I have the potential to bring out the best in people by supporting and encouraging them constantly. However, my encouragement won't mean anything to someone I have no relationship with. I also need to keep myself positive by making sure the people around me are inspiring me to reach my full potential and become a better person.

One other story that Bro. Holmoe shared was the story of Brendan Gaskins. Now I'm not going to pretend I know anything about football, so hopefully how I tell this makes sense... Essentially what happened was that Brendan decided to step down from his position as the back-up quarterback so that the team wouldn't have to be split between the other contender for his position and himself. And that is being a leader: giving up what may be beneficial for your own self for the good of the team, group, or committee as a whole. I really loved this story, and it was an excellent reminder that in working with BYUSA committees, in ward groups, in my FHE family, or really anywhere that I need to remember to focus on the goal of the group, not just on my own selfish reasons.

Please note: First off, I was not at the lab day the following Monday due to a sinus infection. Then I realized I forgot to push the publish button. So this should be from the lecture on October 5, 2011. Not the actual date the post is published on. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Fish

Imagine you are fishing. That day you catch some fish. Perhaps one, maybe several. But you do catch at least one. What do you do with that one fish? Well you have to do something with it, otherwise it’ll spoil. Typically within twenty-four hours. We are talking old-school fishing when freezers and foil wrapping didn’t exist. 
So you have this fish and you have to do something with it. Can you see where I’m going with this? Probably not. Allow me to explain. 
Our lab and lecture this past week was on time management. After the lab, our TA asked us to write about our “fish” from the lesson. Meaning, take at least one thing that you got out of the lesson and then apply it within the next twenty-four hours.
In our discussion on time management on Monday (I unfortunately was not there for the lecture. sad face.) we talked about some of the things that get in the way of effectively managing our time. We came up with four things particularly: not enough sleep, looking at everything at once, not knowing when to say no, and distractions. Another thing we discussed that I particularly found interesting was from Habit 3 of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. 

Habit 3 is Put First Things First. The chart on the left is to help categorize your time usage into four different quadrants. Most time should be focused on Quadrants 1 and 2, those things that are important. The most effective people stay out of Quadrants 3 and 4. It's also important to attempt to shrink down the size of quadrant 1 (important and urgent) so that more time can be spent on quadrant 2. 

From this lab, I decided my fish would be to start working on my balance of activities using the quadrants. I realized that I have been putting off homework assignments, projects, and large papers until the last few days before they were due. This made those days incredibly stressful. Because these assignments or activities were in the important but not urgent category, I procrastinated working on them. 

On Monday after class, I went and looked at where I was spending the time that could be spent on school work. I definitely spent way too much time on Facebook, email, blogging, and just being distracted from the homework I needed to do on the computer. 

So I set to work to find a way to block my distractions. A few weeks ago, one of the girls in my hall mentioned a program she used that would allot a certain amount of time to spend each day on your time wasting sites. I looked up the Stayfocusd app and downloaded it. I set a limit of 30 minutes a day for email, Facebook, blogging, and a few other sites I spend too much time on. The greatest part about this - when the time ran out, I couldn't go back in to reset my time settings. I had to wait until the next day to give myself more time. And when I did try to raise the time limit, there were about ten different boxes that popped up asking if I was absolutely positive that I wanted to do that. 

Once my computer time was limited, I found that I had time to read my scriptures earlier in the day, get ahead in my homework assignments and spend more time with my friends. It was a great feeling the next morning to realize I wouldn't have to rush to finish homework assignments between classes. My day went by so much more smoothly, I was happier, and I felt zero stress. I could focus more effectively, and I actually felt even more motivated to work ahead on future assignments. It was incredible that limiting (I'm on the path to eliminating) my distractions helped me in the process of shrinking my urgent and important quadrant and allowed me to work in the second quadrant more. 

Just a quick quote by Sam Ewing to share: "It's not the hours you put in your work that counts, it's the work you put in the hours." Hearing this reminded me of Elder Ian S. Ardern's talk in this past General Conference. I felt inspired to improve in my time management when I heard his talk, and I obviously need to continue to work on it. 

That is being a leader: managing your own time in such a way that the important things get done so you later have time for the fun things and even for the Lord.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conflict Management

Brother Adrian Klemme, a student leadership coordinator, spoke to us on Wednesday about conflict management. What's the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word conflict? I immediately thought of 3 Nephi 11:29 which states, "contention is of the devil." But throughout the lecture, I came to realize that conflict can not only be positive, but also necessary to our progression. The important part is learning how to deal with any challenges that are thrown at you. We took a "Strategies for Handling Conflict" quiz to see what strategy we tend to use in our conflict management. The five categories are: 


I scored highest in Compromising and Accommodating. My lowest score was in Competing. Bro. Klemme asked us to look at a packet he gave us and answer a question regarding the areas we scored both highest and lowest in. I will focus on compromising for my high score as accommodating questions are not on the handout :)

Do you concentrate so heavily on the practicalities and tactics of compromise that you sometimes lose sight of larger issues such as principles, values, long-term objectives, or company welfare?
I hope I don't, but it could be possible. In any conflict, I try to remember Christ and what He would do. That eternal perspective definitely makes working with other people involved in the situation a lot easier. However, there are times, particularly when I'm arguing with siblings, that I am quick to forget (or as the Book of Mormon puts it, slow to remember) that the bigger picture is what really matters. Maintaining a strong friendship, earning high grades, and establishing eternal family relationships (to name a few) are far more important than the little arguments and conflicts that may come up.

Do you sometimes have trouble taking a firm stand even when you see the need?
I have really struggled with this, especially in high school. I am a naturally shy person, so swallowing my fear and taking a stand for my own opinion can be incredibly difficult for me. I also went to school with a bunch of amazing people who I felt could handle situations and lead projects so much more effectively than I could, especially in National Honors Society. That feeling of inferiority held me back from fully expressing my thoughts and contributing all I could to those activities I participated in. Here at BYU, I have forced myself to reach outside of my comfort zone and it has been an incredible blessing! I have made so many friends by walking up to random people in the Cannon Center, and I am now a committee lead for a BYUSA activity. I am still fairly hesitant about expressing my thoughts, but I am more willing to do so and more sure of my opinions now.

I also felt that I should share this from the lab on Monday. Rebekah had us write the first word that came to mind when we thought of those two words together - conflict and management. This time my first thought was of a hug. She also had us come up with a conflict management plan; this is essentially a personal list to go through to help manage your thoughts and emotions in a difficult situation. Here is my conflict management plan:

1. Take some deep breaths.
2. Say a prayer for help.
3. Think of Christ and how He would act in this situation.
4. Think of the word "HUG" which is how I want the conflict to end.
5. Place myself in the other person's position and try to gain a new perspective on the situation.
6. Ask for everyone's opinions on the conflict.
7. Repeat their positions to ensure I understood them clearly.
8. Explain my own position clearly and calmly.

That is being a leader: being able to manage yourself before heading into a tricky situation, and then helping to lead others into reaching a consensus in resolving the conflict.

Application Side Notes

This currently hangs directly above my bed. It has my vision, my goals, and my conflict management plan right where I can constantly see them. Look at me, applying what I learned :) haha just kidding. At least I have the paper to remind me to do it. My pictures of Christ and President Monson hang right below the "Lift is Good" sign.

On another side note, we are in the process of working on a group leadership project. Our ideas keep falling through due to weather and other extraneous circumstances. Hopefully we will have a plan in place very soon... and then I'll have more to blog about! yay!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Effective Communication

Brittanie Seele, the BYUSA vice president, spoke to us last Wednesday about the importance of effective communication in developing leadership attributes. She specifically talked about seven qualities that great communicators work to acquire: built integrity and trust, involving others, translate messages to fit the audience, takes initiative, analytical skills, innovation, and positive optimism.
I will examine a few of these principles and how I am currently (attempting to) applying them in my leadership positions.

Involving Others: As most of us know from classes, a lecture isn't always the most effective way to communicate; the students are not actively involved in the learning process. Often you see students falling asleep in lectures where discussion is not part of the class. For my Gospel Doctrine class, I have found this principle to be crucial to not only maintaining the attention of the students, but also to more effectively teach the principles in the lesson. In teaching this class, I make sure to plan time for discussion, for students to share their stories that relate to the topic, and sometimes I even have an object lesson. Involving the people I lead in that class helps those I teach realize that I value their opinions and insights into the lesson, even if I am the teacher.

Translate Messages to Fit: Every audience is different in size, character, and values. As a leader, one's communication strategy must first consider who the audience will consist of. I have found this to be incredibly vital in my role as a tutor. I have to consider if I am working in a study group or if I am helping someone one-on-one, what the needs of each individual are, and what subject matter will be covered. I also have to realize what kind of communication to use at various points; sometimes a more forceful voice is necessary while other times a more tender approach is needed. While the goal is to teach or communicate to the people I am leading, I still have to allow the people I am leading to exercise their own agency. I can only help increase their understanding of the message; it's up to them to decide what to do with the information. For me, that is probably one of the hardest parts of communicating as a leader, knowing that what I share may be completely ignored. But when the message is tailored to fit the group of people, I have much more success.

Positive Optimism: This is fairly simple for me to apply as I tend to be an optimistic person. As a leader, I need to make sure that I am communicating messages that are positive, hopeful, and inspirational. Such messages are far more motivating to those I lead than one that has a negative tone. Granted, a leader should always be honest and share what is really happening. But that leader can still inspire hope in the people around him or her. This is particularly true in both my tutoring and Gospel Doctrine classes. As a tutor I may need to point out what a student is doing wrong, but I can still offer solutions to the problem rather than just complaining about the errors of the tutee. In Gospel Doctrine, some of the stories can be a little depressing, so it is important for me as the teacher to point out the principles being taught and what the class can learn from the more negative stories. People are drawn to leaders who can smile through a rough time and maintain an optimistic outlook on life. That positive optimism is vital to developing as a leader.

We need to remember that the overall goal of communication is to unify those we lead and to ultimately bring them closer to their Heavenly Father. By looking to Christ as our example and following his teachings, we can learn to communicate as Christ did; loving, instructive, and uplifting. As we develop these qualities in our own communication, we will be more successful and draw more people to ourselves, and therefore, our Savior.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Establishing a Vision

We had the amazing opportunity last Wednesday to hear from Ryan Greenberg, our BYUSA president. He talked to us about establishing a vision and setting goals to achieve that vision. Ryan had us each write down a personal mission statement for our life. He suggested we not only write it down, but hang it in a place where we can see it often and remember to work towards that vision. Here is what I wrote down in class:

The mission of my personal life is to do all I can to obtain eternal life and to help inspire those around me to do all they can to receive those same blessings. In order to do this, I will maintain my focus on the temple and remain worthy to attend. I will always look to Christ as my example and will center all that I do around Him. I will depend upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do the Lord's will, and I will accept His will no matter how difficult it may seem. With those who are not members of this Church, I will share this vision with them and look for every opportunity to share the truths and standards I know to be true.

We also discussed SMART goals, meaning goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. These goals act as a road map to achieving the vision. Here are a few that I wrote down during class:

1. Work through Preach My Gospel by next December
2. Read the entire Book of Mormon by the end of my freshman year
3. Learn to play the organ (this one may be a little more difficult, considering I haven't seen an organ for almost a month)
4. Read the rest of the New Testament (Romans to Revelation) by January 2012. Considering I am a Gospel Doctrine teacher, I figure this might be helpful with my calling...
5. Become more involved at BYU by committing to service groups, including Tutoring, Service Squad, and Horses for Healing.
6. Obtain the best grades possible by setting a homework schedule, taking tests early in their availability time, and setting aside time to meet with study groups.

Why are these things important? What's the point of taking the time to establish your vision and set goals for yourself? I loved the scripture Proverbs 29:18 which states, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." I had never really heard of that scripture, but it made me a little nervous.  I really had to think about what my vision is, what my goals are, and how I am progressing to achieve those. Our vision also establishes what our priorities are; we can look to that mission statement to remind us of what we should be focusing on each day. I plan to type up my mission statement and these goals, among others, and place the on the wall above my bed. I can then look to my vision each morning and be reminded what I should accomplish and what I need to focus on throughout the day. This reminder will help me to have direction throughout my day and help me to think through each activity that I undertake; I need to ask myself, "Will this contribute to my progression in attaining my vision? Or is this pushing me in the opposite direction I want to go?" There is no middle ground; one is either moving forward or backward, and I personally would rather move forward.

We discussed the first week of class that a vision is an essential part of leadership; if you don't know where you're heading as the leader, how will you be able to lead those who look to you? I need to share my vision often with those I lead as well as with those I interact with on a day-to-day basis. By sharing my mission statement, I will not only be better able to remember it myself, but other people will be able to recognize my priorities and want to move in the same direction as me. That is the entire purpose of divine-centered leadership: bringing others closer to Christ and eventually eternal life through your own example.

That is being a leader: having your vision, sharing it with other people, and establishing goals so that you can achieve that vision. This sets your life in the direction you want to head (which for me is towards eternal life) and will help others to follow your example and follow a similar course.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Assignment: Cannon Center

Our service project this past Monday was fairly simple: go to the Cougareat or Cannon Center, find someone sitting alone, and get to know them. Specifically, get to know their heart.
So I found myself wandering the Cannon Center looking for a lone diner. I walked up to a guy sitting alone and asked to sit with him. Being one of the friendly people that everyone is at BYU, he said of course.
The guy, Austin, is a junior here at BYU studying computer science. His advice: don't do computer science unless you really enjoy the numbers, details, and don't mind the possibility of having the code you create fail because you forget a single character. He became involved with computer science because his older brother is studying the same. He lives off campus in the __apartments and comes to the Cannon Center every now and then for the amazing food. I had to agree - the food there is quite delicious.
We talked about his mission in Ventura California. Although originally called for English-speaking, he was later switched to the Spanish-speaking mission. He told me of some of his experiences, as well as some of his pet peeves he discovered with some of his companions.
We talked about the amazing environment (and slight culture shock) of BYU. He came from a similar situation that I did - he was the only member at his high school where there was an incredibly diverse population. Here at BYU, nearly every person is a member, and everyone has agreed to live by the same standards that we have.
From the experience, I found a few things. First, it's fairly simple to just offer to eat a meal with someone. You get to know another person, practice conversational skills, and it makes the meal a whole lot less boring. Second, finding common ground is a lot easier than it seems. As we discussed various subjects, similarities kept popping up. Lastly, you can make someone's day just by talking to them for thirty minutes. As I was leaving, the guy expressed his thanks and mentioned that he would typically eat alone (which couldn't be all that fun, seeing as he got his money's worth for going to the Cannon Center (his words, not mine)). Walking out of the dining area, I felt amazing; knowing that I had made someone's day a little brighter can definitely bring the sunshine out on the rest of my day. Having helped another, I could actually feel the Spirit more strongly. Now, I want to seek out those having a bad day, or those just sitting alone every chance I can.
That is being a leader: finding the little ways to lift each son or daughter of God around you. They are your brothers and sisters. What have you got to lose?

Divine-Centered Leadership

The ultimate example of a perfect leader is our Savior, Jesus Christ. His life was full of love, teaching, and motivating others to do as He did. His life was dedicated to the service of others.
Why did Christ serve everyone He met? Christ tells us that He was doing the work of His Father. This work can be found in Moses 1:39: "For behold this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." Christ's motive for performing his service was to do all He could to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. He put the needs of those around Him before His own. He recognized that this was His duty as the Savior of the world. His Atonement was for us. Everything Christ did, He did because He wanted to help us, His brothers and sisters.
So why do I serve others? Often times, I serve knowing there will be some sort of prize or food at the end of the project. Sometimes I serve because someone else told me to do so. However, as I strive to become more like Christ, I must serve with His same purpose: to bring others closer to Christ and my Heavenly Father. I must serve because I want to, and because I recognize that it is my duty as a covenant member of His Church.
As a leader, I must put the needs of others before my own. In the booklet "Divine-Centered Leadership," Robert Millet states, "God's business is people. People are His most important product. It must be so with us." I need to constantly remember that each person I meet has the right to be treated as a divine being with a divine potential. Every person I see, talk to, or interact with is my brother or sister. I must treat them as such and get to know them as I know my own family members. To get to know each heart, a leader should spend time with the person. That's exactly what Christ did: He spent time among the people and came to know each of them personally. I must do the same.
In Mosiah 2:17, we are told that as we serve others we are also in the service of God. Think of the joy our Heavenly Father must feel when we help one another and lift each other up from the hard times of this life! He loves each of us and wants us to feel that love (or charity) towards each other. Love and service are inseparable; as we serve, our love for one another increases, and as we love our fellow brothers and sisters we have a greater willingness to serve.
If nothing else can inspire me to willingly serve others, then I think of the promise that service will bring a greater degree of happiness into my life.  In the lecture on Wednesday, we were taught that we should find a purpose of service in our future occupations; if I choose a profession where I can constantly serve others, I will be much happier. As I practice serving, the desire to serve more will come until I am daily seeking and praying for opportunities to help my brothers and sisters.
In closing, I'd like to share the scripture Doctrine and Covenants 4:2-3: "Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;" As I seek for the desire to serve those around me, Heavenly Father will bless me with a greater capacity to serve and will help me to develop a greater love for others.
That is being a leader: serving those around you because you want to. As you do this, you can feel an increase in the Spirit's power in your daily life, and you will have the incredible opportunity of bringing people closer to the Savior.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who I am. What I do. Why I do it.

In becoming a leader, one must realize three things: who they are, what they do, and why they do it. So in order for me to develop as a leader, I need to recognize these three qualities in my life.

   Who am I? I could elaborate on my name, events in my life, or my personal interests. But that is not what applies to leadership; rather who I am refers to my character. Character is defined as "the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual; the quality of being individual; a person's good reputation" (Apple MacBook Dictionary). So what qualities are distinctive to me? I have a great sense of optimism. I always accomplish those things that I am determined to do. I am an introvert - I prefer to spend time on my own reading a book than to be in social situations. I enjoy writing far more than mathematics. I tend to be timid in large groups. I seem shy at first, but can be talkative and outgoing once I get to know the people around me. I am able to empathize with those going through difficult trials in life because of the experiences in my life. I have a strong testimony of the gospel and am not afraid to share it.
   The best part about examining one's character is coming to the realization that you don't need to change your character to be a great leader; as we learned in class, we can make our strengths the most developed parts of ourselves so people don't notice our weaknesses as much. I can take my stronger qualities, such as optimism and including others, and develop those to eventually become a better leader. My weaknesses, being a shy, introverted person, will then become strengths as I follow Moroni's counsel: "for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).

   What do I do? I uphold the standards outlined in "For the Strength of Youth" and the BYU Honor Code, even when I am the only one doing so. I complete those tasks that I am assigned for school, attend class, and meet each deadline. I follow through on whatever I volunteer for. I accept any callings in Church, no matter how difficult that particular calling may seem. I look for ways to volunteer and serve the people around me. I find ways share my testimony with every person I meet. I smile. I hug those who are struggling. I strive to do all that the Lord has asked of me. I take care of myself by following the Word of Wisdom. I do the little things each day, such as read my scriptures and pray, that will bring my closer to my Heavenly Father. I find ways to include others in my activities.

   Why do I do these things? As a leader, every action that I take is noticed by those who look to me as an example. One wrong move could diminish the trust people have in me, or it could have the opposite effect and make people want to do whatever I did as well. However, this works inversely as well; every smart, good, helpful effort I make can strengthen others' trust in me and can inspire them to take similar action. With everything I do, I exhibit confidence in who I am and will draw people to me. Everything I do stems from my faith in Christ and my desire to become more like Him. He is the ultimate example of all that a "servant leader" should do. Because I have the light of the gospel, my desire to serve those around me and lead them to Christ also inspires the actions I take.