Monday, April 12, 2010

The Final Post

Well, I'm certainly going to miss the opportunities this class has given me, especially writing in this blog and analyzing the lessons I've learned. It's been fun, but it had to end sometime, I suppose. Today, I will highlight five of my favorite concepts from among the blogs I've written so far.

Back in January, I wrote about the roles of leadership in my life that I was going to apply these principles to. Towards the end, however, is where a surprising and important insight surfaced about my style of leadership.

"I discovered that I am more of a subtle leader. I let the REALLY outgoing, good at public speaking and coming up with super creative ideas people take over while I support them and take care of the people that might get overlooked in the big picture. So, in my own life, where I AM the leader, it's a little more difficult. But as I started looking, I found that while the leading I do won't be quite what George Washington or Rosa parks did, it CAN follow what Jesus Christ did in his life. I can serve and love and be an example. I can listen and learn and grow, and in doing so lead others to see their own potentials as leaders. Because as this blog's title aptly states, "Anyone can lead." And I believe that everyone should."
This class, in conjunction with FOL, has led me to a better, more complete understanding of what it means to lead--and that anyone can, and that there isn't necessarily ONE specific method that works best. There are as many methods as there are people in this world, but the best ones, as I've learned, include Christ-like love as a main principle. I am pretty sure I mentioned this in almost every blog I wrote, and appropriately so, as it was basically the central theme of our class.

"True leadership, akin to discipleship, is service. Service is love in action. Love is the way and the light of Christ. There is no other way to serve, no other way to lead, no other way to follow Him."
I find another lesson in my February blog post about time management; I have discovered that there is always room for improvement, but that it is important not to let the less valuable things take away from service to myself and others.

"Focus on people, not processes or things- This is one that will come gradually, but at the same time it's something that I already do for the most part. I'm still learning, of course. It could mean that sometimes friends should be put before school, or even writing. Christ made people his focus during his mission on this earth, and I should always strive to express love to those in my life, supporting them as they do me rather than selfishly using all of my resources to further my own goals and dreams. I know that despite any improvement these things bring to my life, there will always be room for improvement."

Through this class, and especially through blogging, I have been able to think back on my recent life and see what my attributes of a leader are, as well as what I can improve on and who I can become. In reading Max DePree's book, "Leading Without Power," I learned this lesson most poignantly.

"We are all striving for completion, or perfection, on this earth. That is aneternal quest, obtaining the highest degree of our potential. It is not something done easily, nor is it something that can be achieved alone. And love, hope, service--these are all necessary to reaching that place of 'realized potential.'"
But the biggest thing I took from this class is a better understanding of the way Christ leads, and the way He expects me to lead; with love and devotion to the people. Without greed or a search for power. Without beguiling or misleading. With caring, friendship, and the intent to better those around me.

"My theory is that if I have love, if I recognize it in my life and use it, I have a responsibility to show my fellow man that same love. I have a responsibility to not only love him, but show him how I found that love. This is how leadership is based on love. This is what I believe the best leadership is made of."
I am going to miss this class. It was fun, enlightening, and full of wonderful people as well as opportunities. It is my fervent hope that I will continue to interact with these great people, or at least stay in close enough touch to watch how they take the principles of this class and become the incredible disciples and leaders they are on their way to becoming. This is a thank you to them for being such great classmates, T.A.s, and instructors. Thank you for making my experience in this class a valuable one, and for helping me learn, and for all the good times. Go forth and serve, my friends!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Integrating Integrity

"I have been asked what I mean by “word of honor.” I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I might be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No, never! I’d die first."
Karl G. Maeser

I've had to deal with issues of integrity my whole life, whether my own or that of others. On many occasions, I've had to make a decision between something I WANT or something a friend WANTS and doing what is RIGHT because they aren't always, and in today's world often are not, the same thing. As I get older, the line gets more blurry, less defined by those around me, and more and more I come across instances where righteous people I respect are crossing lines of integrity, believing that "just this once" won't hurt, or that it's "okay in this situation." It's scary how easily Satan gets in. All it takes is letting him in once, and the next time, it will be easier for him to convince you that there's nothing wrong with copying a friends homework just this once. And then, the next time, it will be something bigger. At school, in the work place, or just between friends, integrity is endangered, and rapidly becoming extinct or considered prehistoric.
So how can I, one person living in this frightening time, preserve my integrity? The first step is deciding that I will be honest in all things, no matter what, and I can start by improving the areas where I've put a toe over the line. It means drawing a straight "chalk line," and not making it curvy or wavy in order to include something that jeopardizes my integrity. If I'm honest with myself in setting my standards, I'll better be able to keep them.
The next step is the hardest--I have to live up to my standards, no matter the temptation that assails me. This is the worst when it's against friends, family, or superiors. Many of these people mean well enough, but they will try to convince me that I don't have to always follow my standards, that they are inefficient, foolish, limiting, or even destructive. They are wrong.
Even though this will always be a difficult thing to do, I have a strong testimony that if I do everything I can to keep my words and actions honorable, God will bless me. Sometimes it may not even seem like I'm receiving blessings and I'll feel punished for my good deeds, but I know He will always come through for me. He loves me and does not want me to suffer for being a good, honest person. He will always bless me for telling the truth and keeping my word. There's a quote somewhere that says a man is not measured by what he does in the presence of others, but what he does when he thinks no one is watching. Someone is always watching; and that someone is not a being I ever want to disappoint. His opinion means more to me than any worldly possession or position, more than the opinions of my friends, neighbors, strangers, family, superiors.

So, pass me the chalk, please. I'm ready to draw my line.

A Leader to Look up to

Today the focus is on those I like to refer to as abstract leaders, or life leaders; these are the people who are leaders, not because they literally led a group of people or an effort or anything like that, but because they lived with so much passion they were able to accomplish the great things they dreamed of doing. By achieving these great things, these people became leaders for generations to come, showing them what good could be put in the world. There are two women I want to highlight; women who aren't often mentioned and whose names I had never heard before reading about them tonight.

The first is Tenley Albright. She was born in 1935. By age eight she was already becoming a skilled ice skater, but was stricken with a severe case of polio at eleven. Despite the disease, it was a mere two years later that, through her dedication to training and therapy, Tenley won her first ice skating national title.
Tenley went on to become world champion five consecutive times and was the first U.S. woman to win gold at the Olympics.

The second is Dr. Mae Jemison. We all hear about Neil Armstrong, about Buzz Aldred, about fantastic American men who go into space. But Mae is an incredible person who deserves a minute or two in the spotlight. As for background, Mae was the youngest of three in her family, and she fought past roadblocks to woman and minorities all the years of her life so she could achieve her dreams.
Stanford University accepted her at age SIXTEEN, and she received a degree in Chemical Engineering and an associates in African and Afro-American studies. She got her Doctorate from Cornell Medical College in Medicine in 1981. She traveled to Cuba, Kenya, and Thailand for internships. She was invited to teach a course at Dartmouth in 1993, and an elementary school built in Detroit was named after her. She even appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
So who was Dr. Mae Jemison? Why do I consider her among the greatest to ever walk the earth, leaders who overcame hardship and opened doors for those that would follow in their footsteps?
It is because, in September of 1992, aboard the spaceship Endeavor, she became the first African-American woman to go into space.

As I said before, these two women are examples of life leaders; of leaders who didn't let anything stop them, not others telling them they couldn't, not a crippling and life-threatening disease, not their gender, not their race, and certainly not circumstance. They have led the way along the treacherous path to achieving dreams, proving time and time again that any dragon can be defeated and that anyone who believes and does enough can have a happy ending.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Leadership is Love

This week's topic is one that I am not sure I can find the words to aptly complete. Our TA suggested we right on our personal philosophy of leadership. Unsure of where to start, I turned to my beloved dictionary and flipped to the definition of philosophy. One entry called philosophy "the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual."
So now I ask myself, what are MY basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of leadership?

LOVE. You cannot lead well without it. You can't do much of anything well without it, except be miserable and terrible. This is excluding, for a moment, the idea that without love none of those things would exist because there must be opposition to all things. Well, now that I look at it, it's not so much an absence of love that makes a leader a tyrant, but obvious rejection or ignoring of love is what turns good into evil.

Love is the root of everything good. The ultimate leader, Jesus Christ, he is love. His entire mortal life was spent distributing love to everyone and everything. The message of his gospel is love; love God, love yourself, love your neighbor.

We did an activity in the last ten minutes of my leadership group class this past Wednesday--an activity that made my day, and hopefully that of many others. Our class broke up, either into groups or individuals, and walked all over campus in different directions. Our goal? To spread joy. To make someone smile or just feel good about themselves and about life. Some of us had notes that said things like: "If this made you smile, pass it on!" or, "If you're missing a smile, you can have one of mine." or, "Have a great day!" My personal favorite was one I made that read, "Grin and WEAR it!" Others didn't take notes, but instead gave hugs, or smiled, or stopped and talked to someone who looked lonely. A lot of people gave us weird looks. All of the ones we gave notes to smiled. One woman turned around after taking the note we gave her and asked us what it was for. My partner said, "It's for you, to make you happy." She smiled and said thank you. It is the most wonderful thing in the world to make someone smile; the simplest of services, the kindest of actions, the cheapest way to make someone's day. And it filled me to overflowing with joy and warmth. It wasn't a huge service project. We didn't announce to the world that we were delivering these messages of happiness and love to get attention. We just devoted ten minutes of our time bringing joy to those around us.

It is still amazing to me how people can walk through this life and miss seeing how beautiful it is, how lucky they are, how blessed they are. It is amazing, and terrifying, to me how most people can walk through life and not see how beautiful and wonderful they are, and how much they can give to the world if they will only smile and put forth their best effort, doing something they're passionate about.

This week we also turned in a paper we wrote about a movie we watched that had an example of leadership in it. Because I love the movie and hadn't seen it for a while, I checked "Dead Poets' Society" out of the library and went home and watched it. I cried. I always do when I watch that movie. But I don't cry at the saddest part, the part about a death (I'll try to avoid spoiling the movie entirely!) I never fail, however, to shed tears when it gets to the end and everything comes together in a huge dramatic scene with triumphant, inspirational music and people standing up (literally) for something they believe in and respect and love. It's also at this point that the message of the movie, at least the one I believe it contains, slams home.

The message is that the most valuable contribution you can make to the world is sharing your passion for life with everyone around you. Whatever it is that makes you most happy, that you love the most, share it with others every moment of every day. Put forth every bit of positive energy your being contains

My theory is that if I have love, if I recognize it in my life and use it, I have a responsibility to show my fellow man that same love. I have a responsibility to not only love him, but show him how I found that love. This is how leadership is based on love. This is what I believe the best leadership is made of.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Worth of a Book

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."
~James Bryce
Ah, literature. Books are my best friends when I'm having issues with people. Books keep me company when I am sad or lonely, books give me adventure when my life is dull, books enlighten dark regions of knowledge and open doors to worlds of information and stories. I love books. (And that's putting it lightly!)

I could go on all day about the value of reading and never tire of the subject or run out of words, but since readers of my blog would probably appreciate not being here for that long, I will restrict my comments. We each read a book in my leadership class about, go figure, leadership. They all had some notable similarities, but stark differences. One was called "Me to We" and it must have been GOOD because both of the students that read it gave it a thumbs up. It was all about developing a team-based attitude and not maintaining a selfish persona. Another of my classmates read two books (because she didn't like the first one very much), both of which I have had the pleasure of reading. The first was called "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." She referred to it as a "calender book," one of those where you read a small section every day to get a completely different idea individual from all the others. It's a great read, but not a good straight-through read, as she emphasized. The other book she read is one of my personal favorites, "Tuesdays with Morrie."

To quote my classmate, "This book changed my life."

It's true. I read this and cried, it was so poignant. It's a story about a dying man, but it's more than that. This man truly knew how to live. And the author, Mitch Albom, was a lucky individual in that he was able to be with Morrie in the last months of his life, recording thoughts and conversations that he had with the old man. It's a beautiful book about acceptance, about living, about dying. I loved it, and I could tell my classmate did as well.
The book I read, "Leading Without Power" by Max De Pree, came recommended by my wonderful father. It took me a while to get into it; I wasn't able to truly enjoy his writing until I discovered a way to apply it to myself. I found his terminology strange, which also made it difficult to get through. But overall, it was a great book.

The audience is those participating in organizations, either for-profit or non-profit, and De Pree is trying to express the importance of applying the values and attitudes found in a successful non-profit organization to those in for-profit organizations. Until I saw past all of the "organizations" and put my name in its place, I wasn't able to get much out of the book. But then my eyes opened, and phrases began to stick out, and I got a valuable message from its words.

POTENTIAL. That is what this book focused on for me. Discovering and fulfilling potential, and in turn helping others' find and develop their potential.

"Like rainbows, which are really circles--we only see the upper halves, the horizonhides the rest--potential never reveals its entirety."
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It was hidden in the beginning, and I missed it when I first read through this part because I was struggling to wade my way through what seemed to me to be useless and confusing words of advice. But it is mentioned in the beginning, and again towards the end, and in the middle I found a true gem. De Pree talks about how to make your organization "a place of realized potential." When I ask myself, "Am I a place of realized potential?" Some interesting introspective observations were able to form, and I was taught more about myself than I could have learned otherwise. This all came from De Pree's comments on what a place of realized potential does.

"A place of realized potential opens itself to change, to contrary opinion, to the mystery of potential, to involvement, to unsettling ideas."

"A place of realized potential offers people the opportunity to learn and grow."

"A place of realized potential offers the gift of challenging work."

"A place of realized potential encourages people to decide what needs to be measure and then helps them do the work."

"A place of realized potential heals people with trust and with caring and with forgetfulness."

"A place of realized potential celebrates."

That last one may not seem to fit, but allow me to elaborate since it is my favorite one. De Pree says that a place that celebrates understands that the best way to reward outstanding performance is to raise the level of challenge. I really like that. We are all striving for completion, or perfection, on this earth. That is an eternal quest, obtaining the highest degree of our potential. It is not something done easily, nor is it something that can be achieved alone. And love, hope, service--these are all necessary to reaching that place of "realized potential."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"Blessed are the Peacemakers..."

This week's topic is conflict resolution. Every leader needs to know how to handle conflict because no matter what he or she leads, there will be conflict. It's everywhere, and it's necessary. That's right! Not all conflict is bad. In fact, there is much GOOD in conflict. It can encourage (sometimes force) communication between people of different backgrounds or beliefs and reveal weaknesses in plans or ideas. It's like building a muscle--in order to become stronger, things have to be torn and built back up. Constructive conflict is hard to come by, however; our natural instinct is to protect ourselves and our ideas, lashing out or running away rather than being patient and calm and trying to figure things out. Constructive conflict begins within ourselves, NOT with the other person!

As a kid, I would get into a lot of conflict with my siblings. We were atrocious when it came to disagreements, and they would get very vocal. I can remember how frustrated my mom used to get when we fought, especially when it was over pointless or frivolous things, like who got the front seat in the car, or when someone's favorite spot on the couch was stolen.
The one thing I remember most from this week's presentation was

"The Peacemaking Pyramid"

The point our speaker made was that we generally invert the pyramid so Correcting is where we spend most of our time, rather than Heart of Peace. Heart of peace is based on behavior--we are supposed to cultivate a heart of peace within ourselves, rather than a heart of war. We can do this by treating people as actual people, rather than objects or tools for our gain.

A great example of this (inspired by my brilliant and wonderful T.A.'s examples in class) is found in the movie "The Emperor's New Groove," a Disney movie I recently watched. In this movie, the emperor is a spoiled 18-year-old who is a jerk, to put it lightly. He only cares about himself, about his happiness, and this is a major problem to everyone but him. Well, one day he gets turned into a llama and kidnapped by a woman he had insulted immensely. Then he meets a man named Pacha, a llama herder, and demands that this peasant take him back to his palace. Well, since the emperor (named Kuzco) recently told Pacha he was destroying his village to build a summer getaway for himself, Pacha refuses to comply with Kuzco's demands. They are forced together when Pacha gives in to his conscience and rescues Kuzco from a vicious pack of panthers, and through their many adventures together, they form a strong bond of everlasting friendship and eventually, Kuzco becomes human again, decides not to destroy Pacha's village, and all ends happily.

However, the point is that in the beginning, Emperor Kuzco saw people as tools to create his happiness; he was always criticizing and being utterly selfish. By the end however, he learned to see others as real people with needs and hopes and dreams, and he begins to be more considerate of their views and feelings.

Returning to the pyramid, it is important that we focus on the lower values, the base values, before the higher ones. If we are always correcting others and never fixing our own problems, we are being hypocrites and no one will follow our lead. If there is a problem at one level, it is the level(s) below it that need to be worked on. And our overall effectiveness depends on how we operate on the most basic and most essential level: that of our way of being, or how we treat other people.

No matter what capacity I serve in through my life, I must always first address any flaws that might be within myself or in my perception of the people I serve. One thing I particularly liked in the leadership book I'm reading is a quote. It basically says that leaders are always talking about "my people," when in reality it should be "the people I serve." This similar but crucially different perspective is what makes a good leader. Instead of seeing these people as objects to own, it is important to see them as receivers of service with individual, human value. When we reach this point is when people will want to follow us, and we become successful leaders.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pyromaniac on the Loose!

What an epic lesson week! We did so much, and talked about so much, that I hardly know where to begin! And since my blog entries tend to be...long...I've decided to focus on one principle I really liked and keep this one short(er) and sweet as can be!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
~Matthew 5:16
This well-known scripture is talking about light. Specifically, the light and glory of Jesus Christ. The Topical Guide in the Bible says this about the light of Christ:

"The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ."
This light is in each of us, and as disciples and leaders it is our responsibility to distribute it to those around us whose inner flames are in need of being replenished. Our speaker this week spoke about teamwork, and the specific point of "Firelighters vs. Firefighters" was incredibly poignant for me, especially because I had just been exposed to a similar idea in one of my leadership positions. (This was also rather exciting...finally, a strong connection! It was cool.)
In a recent C2G meeting we were shown a short film about giving. It began with a young man, a student, coming from the Maeser building on BYU campus. He was holding a lit candle as he went down the steps.
Sitting at the bottom of the steps, head hanging low and shoulders hunched in a despairing posture was another student. As the first student approached, holding his burning candle, the miserable student raised his head and pulled an unlit candle from his coat.
The first student held his lit candle towards his fellow, whose once-desolate face became lit with hope. He held his candle to the lit wick of the other and received a flame of his own. Then, with a smile, he stood and began walking away. He met a girl whose candle had no flame, and invited her to light it on his.
The end result was a campus completely lit up by burning candles, brilliant flames shared.
Firelighters are those people who have lit candles already. They want to share the joy and light of this flame with everyone, so they uplift, inspire, and go out of their way to give the desolate hope, the miserable joy. They are those who connect the world.
President Uchtdorf is well known for his story of a group of men trying to move a piano. No matter how they lifted, they could not budge the enormous instrument. At one point the charge was given to "stand close together, and lift where you stand." As if by magic, they were able to lift the piano.
It takes good, solid, close relationships for anything worthwhile to be accomplished in this life. And for a leader to lead, it would be impossible without this closeness.
Every leader needs to be a firelighter, rather than a firefighter who extinguishes ideas, joy, and people.
Christ served with love; his light has spread throughout the world. As a leader, and disciple, I can do the same, starting with the individual and my own lit candle.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either...It's passing, yet I'm the one who's doing all the moving." ~Martin Amis

"Life isn't about the breaths you take; it's about the moments that take your breath away."

A lot of things can "take your breath away"--a beautiful scenery, an unbelievably happy event, laughing uncontrollably, a surprise, running several miles, getting punched in the stomach...and we call this Life, with a capital "L". The biggest lesson learned here is that Life is about time. You only have so much time on this glorious Earth, and there is no end to the good (or bad) things we can do with it. It's easy to waste a few minutes, a few hours, occasionally even a few days. Months and years are harder, but people still waste them sometimes, getting lost in the whirlwind of action happening around them and feeling as if they have no direction.
I count myself lucky to have a solid platform I can build from, and a constant light guiding me to my goal of eternal life; by the very nature of this goal, I am striving constantly to make good use of my time. And boy, is that hard! I have so many responsibilities now-college (classes and homework), work, writing, church calling, mentoring, socializing, family--the list goes on for miles if I think long enough and start getting specific. A typical week for me looks something like this:

4:15 AM Wake up
Run to work
5-8 AM Work
Walk to campus
10-11 AM Class
1-2 PM Class
2-3 PM class
9-10PM Bed

4:15 AM Wake up
Ride to work
5-9 AM Work
(T-Temple 9-10:30 AM)
12-1PM Class
(T-Homework 1-3 PM)
3-4 PM Class
4-5 PM Class
9-10 PM Bed

WHEW!! That makes me tired just typing it! And all of that is just the bare bones of my schedule. I have to do laundry, grocery shop, socialize, make time for's crazy. I think anyone my age attending college would agree that there just isn't enough time in a day to get everything done. And it's easy to let priorities get out of whack, especially if you're a perfectionist like I am. Balance is key. Unfortunately, I've always been the clumsy type, so I stumble along, moving between too much work, not enough spiritual/emotional time, and too much procrastination/me time and not enough work. What's a girl to do?
Well, the speaker in my leadership class this week gave me some great ideas on how to improve, things I already knew but had forgotten amongst all the busy chaos of my life.

1. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God."
Scripture mastery that I've heard a million times and yet, it seems all too easy to lose focus and start putting other things before scriptures and prayer. Like sleep, or homework. But this week I've started a small experiment (again, actually-I've tried this before). Every morning, instead of saying a groggy, half-conscious prayer into my pillow, I get up on my knees and say a heartfelt, awake prayer. Then I go to work, and when I come home the FIRST thing I do is read my scriptures. Or, if I'm about to start a homework assignment and I realize I haven't read them yet, I will do that first. I feel more focused, more in tune with the spirit, and better able to let knowledge flow through me. I know I am blessed when I do this!!

2. Keep water in your well
This is the hardest one for me, I think. I'm so much a perfectionist; I want to succeed at everything I do, especially school. College is extremely difficult for me-high school was easy, so I wasn't as prepared for the extensive workload as I could have been. So, while I struggle through the mounds of homework and learning how to study properly and still feeling like I'm not doing well enough, I completely neglect myself. I put passions such as reading, writing, and violin on the back burner of life, set on simmer, hoping the talent will remain until I can get back to it. This is a great example of one priority that is a little skewed in my life. Not that writing should take place of homework, but it should have room in my life because I go crazy without it. I can't live without writing and being creative, but many times I find myself trying to starve myself. It's like anorexia, only of creativity rather than food. I'm still working on the best solution for this; maybe committing to half an hour a day, or a certain time amount per week, would be a good idea. Or maybe a certain number of days per week, like four.
The reason this is so important, besides the fact that I would DIE without some of them, is that God has granted these talents to me for a reason, and he desires me to use them and grow in them. Even if I'm not the best student at BYU, I am the best ME--nobody else can do a better job at that! So I need to nurture those talents I've been given so I don't lose them, and so I don't lose myself in less important, although good, pursuits of the world.

3. 10 second rule
I REALLY like this one! I had never heard of this before, so I thought it was really cool, and I've started implementing it every chance I get. The idea is, I pray so much for guidance from the spirit, but how often do I listen to those promptings and obey them? Not often. Actually, a lot of the time I dismiss them as my own silly thoughts, and I suffer needlessly for that. The ten second rule is as follows: Every time a thought or impression to DO something--such as call someone, start an assignment, anything like that--within ten seconds I have to either WRITE IT DOWN or DO IT. It's amazing how well this works!! It solves the memory problem I have sometimes, even if I have to write something down several times a day, it helps. And it really helps with things like getting out of bed in the morning-acting on that thought "I should get out of bed right now." Instead of laying there thinking about it is enormously beneficial! I'm not late to work nearly as often since trying this. And getting assignments done instead of wasting time is always good. I am definitely using this!

4. Choose the BEST over Good and Better
This is referring to the talk given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks titled "Good, Better, Best." Great talk...not so easy to actually act upon. It's extremely difficult to prioritize things at times. There are so many GREAT and WONDERFUL things I can do with my life and my time...but what is BEST? Only God really knows, I think. But something that has started to help is that in our group class this week our group leader had us write down our life goals and number them. I numbered some of mine, not according to IMPORTANCE necessarily because many are based on events taking place or time passing that I don't yet have control over. My goals looked something like this:

1-Study Abroad to England
2-Publish first Fantasy novel before age 21
3-Get married in the temple
4-Editing internship at respectable publishing house
5-Run marathon
6-Education-related debt-free within 5 years of graduation
7-Have a BIG family
8-Serve a mission (either at 21 or later with my husband)

There are more, of course, and many of these may switch places or be replaced as other goals become apparent. Like the internship, and the publication of my book...both of those could happen at the same time, a long with marriage, as could the marathon. But as far as preparing for those things, I tried to put them in perspective as to what I should focus on FIRST and FOREMOST. Marriage could move to the top of the list (unlikely, but...that's an observation to be discussed elsewhere), if I meet the right man and it's the right time. Or serving a mission could happen instead. But the idea is that the most important aspect of my goals, the reasons behind them, will not change, that I will still DESIRE and AIM for a temple marriage, even if it doesn't happen for a very long time. I liked mapping out my put a lot into perspective for me, and made me see what's important to me. The best thing is that I know these are all righteous desires, and my Father in Heaven will support me in my endeavors to succeed.

5. Focus on people, not processes or things
This is one that will come gradually, but at the same time it's something that I already do for the most part. I'm still learning, of course. It could mean that sometimes friends should be put before school, or even writing. Christ made people his focus during his mission on this earth, and I should always strive to express love to those in my life, supporting them as they do me rather than selfishly using all of my resources to further my own goals and dreams.

I know that despite any improvement these things bring to my life, there will always be room for improvement. And no matter how often I find balance, there will always be a situation or trial to come mix it up so I can start over again. But this inevitable learning process is essential to my spiritual growth. If I "endure it well" and patiently, always looking to Christ and following in his footsteps, I will return to my Father's presence and obtain the blessings I inherit through my divine heritage; that is, eternal life and godhood.

**Saturday, February 20th, 2010
I just had a pretty neat experience that involved the implementation of several of these principles. So I got home from work and decided to read my scriptures, put God first in my life and nurture my spirit. As I was reading, a thought came into my head--I had forgotten to set up visiting teaching with one of the women I am supposed to teach. I at first thought, "I'll do it later." But the thought came again instantly, so I acted. I got up, walked next door (because I couldn't find the phone number), and knocked. I wasn't expecting success because she is rarely at home, but lo and behold, she answered the door! We chatted for a moment and set up a time and I walked away, whistling and holding a warm cinnamon roll she bestowed upon me. I realized as I came back to my apartment that even though scripture study is great and important, this young woman I visit teach is more important in many ways. Not that I could replace my scripture study with visiting her, but rather, interrupting my personal scripture study to reach out and touch her life when prompted will bring further blessings and more harmony to both of our lives.

Friday, February 12, 2010

No Other Way

"You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That's assault, not leadership."
~Dwight D. Eisenhower
This week in class we read and discussed an inspiring article of literature titled, "Divine-centered Leadership." It actually wasn't until I was in class on Monday (the word document we received the material in had no author name) that I discovered something exciting. The speaker we had, Neal Cox, had a physical, bound copy of the text, and my dad's name was on the front!! Woah! I mean, I knew he had written SOMETHING during his time at BYU, but they still USE it! And I got to read it in a CLASS! WAY COOL.

Anyway, returning to the actual subject of this blog, which is the CONTENT, not the author (sorry Dad) of said material. The driving question stated in the very first section after the introduction is "What would the Lord have me do?"
Jesus Christ beckons us to follow Him; He doesn't drag us behind with a rope around our necks. Love is the only leash He needs. Others have motives like pride, power, control, and greed; they are sometimes successful for small periods of time, but eventually they will have a rebellion on their hands, no matter how appealing their logic or ideas. People want, more than anything, to be loved and to feel that love. Christ as a leader knows this, and so His motive for leadership is love. In love, there is power. It is not an overwhelming drive for power over people, but instead it is striving for the power that can be found and made WITH people. Love also has pride, but it is quiet pride for hardship conquered, goals reached, and growth achieved. Love has control, again not over something or something, but in something, such as oneself. Love is never greedy, but it is always sought after and should be given without hesitation. Love is the best, and in my opinion, only, form of true leadership.

Divine-centered Leadership outlined five main things a leader should do or have in order to not only be successful, but to become the sort of leader the Lord would have him or her become. They are:

  • Inspired Vision
  • Challenge Unrighteousness
  • Model the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Know Each Heart
  • Serve others so they may Act
After all the discussions, we were instructed to choose one and discuss it in this blog. I immediately knew which one I would use. Based on my personality test results (see previous blog), it is known that I am drawn towards assisting others in discovering their potential. A HUGE part of that is finding ways to give them a glimpse of that potential without throwing back the curtain and forcing them into the role that, for now, is too big for them. Some growth and learning on their part is required. This reminds me a little of my younger sister. She is a wonderful young woman now, very energetic and delightful to be around. When she was younger she LOVED to dress up, and LOVED to try on all my hand-me-down clothes. She would then want to wear them everywhere, and to have them for her own. The only problem was that she was, and still is, a very thin girl. I have always had a different body type, and therefore, my clothes simply did not fit her. They hung off her small frame in a ridiculous, baggy way, or slid right off her waist unless she hiked them WAY up or wore a belt. My mother usually caught her wearing such items and made her take them off and put them in a box until she had grown enough to fit into them.

It is the same with all children of God. Sometimes we want, or others want to help us, put on a version of ourselves that, while better, we just haven't grown into yet. The tricky part in being one of those helpful people is knowing how to nudge in the right direction and challenge just enough to give them the opportunity to realize for themselves who they can be, so when they step into those shoes their feet fit just right.

And, once they are ready, these children can do as you did for them and in turn lead others to their potential. It's one of those gifts that costs nothing and will keep giving for generations to come.

The greatest way to begin this process is through love, and love in action is SERVICE.

In every meeting I am in for Choose to Give, I am reminded that we are students giving to students. We are just a small group of perhaps twelve, mobilizing and recruiting volunteers so we can raise money for our fellow students to attend this grand university. But a dozen people stepping up and leading the way can inspire hundreds, if not thousands, to give of themselves. And so we serve; we donate time, effort, ideas, and other little bits of ourselves to focusing outside of what WE need to give our fellows what THEY need. In doing so, we light the path others can follow to achieve the same things. Action leads to action, like a game of dominoes. All it takes is one movement, one touch of a finger, and those small tiles will move until all are touching, all are connected, and potential is realized. Takes that first action to accomplish this, however. It takes each tile being close enough to the next one in order for the final goal to be accomplished.

Applying this to my mentoring, which I just began, is not difficult either. I have one hour to spend with a beautiful, intelligent little first grader. She is darling, but she has a lot to learn. I should know--I've been through almost 13 years of school now, and I haven't made a dent in all the learning that can take place in this mortal existence! But I get the opportunity to share what knowledge I do have with her. It doesn't matter that I have to practically run from campus after class to get to the elementary school on time. It doesn't matter that afterwards I have to sprint back to make it to my next one. What matters is making sure this girl is given the chance to grow. I can't pound the idea that "This is a circle, that is a square." Into her head. I have to lovingly, and PATIENTLY, teach her until she understands the concepts herself. And maybe someday, while she may not remember me teaching her, she will remember that SOMEONE taught her the difference between a circle and a square, and that if no one had loved her enough to give that service, she wouldn't have gotten very far. This, in turn, could inspire her to do the same for someone else.

It isn't usually very difficult to give, but when it is and we give anyway, we are blessed beyond measure, and so are those we serve, and so are their children, and their children's children. True leadership, akin to discipleship, is service. Service is love in action. Love is the way and the light of Christ. There is no other way to serve, no other way to lead, no other way to follow Him.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who am I to be a Leader?

I love this picture, and not just because there's a cat in it. The profound message portrayed has stood out to me ever since I saw it sitting on a desk in an old teacher's office.

At this time, seeing this picture, I ask myself these questions:

  • Do I see myself as a leader?

  • Do I utilize the talents and personality traits given to me by God to be an admirable, trustworthy leader?

  • How can I better understand and take advantage of what I already have in order to better serve those I lead?

Thought-provoking, no? I know I'm getting deep today, but stay with me. For class this week we took a
Myers-Briggs Personality test to get to know ourselves a little better. My results weren't incredibly surprising, and I want to combine them with the results I got from a StrengthsQuest test my dad had me take before I left home. Personally, I LOVE taking personality quizzes. It's fun to see how answering a few seemingly random questions can lead to an identification of self. And while I may get the same result as someone else, they won't emphasize certain traits in the same ways, and they may be stronger in some areas that I'm weaker in, and vice versa.

First off, the Myers-Briggs test placed me in the "ENFP" category. These letters stand for:


And at the bottom of the page I was supplied with a graph showing how much I was each of these things. For example, I am moderately high in Extraversion (focus on outer world of people and things), but that means that I still maintain quite a bit of Introversion (focus on inner world and impressions). Intuition was also moderate, indicating my tendency to take information from patterns and "the big picture." Not surprising was my almost avalanche score in the area of Feeling, meaning I make decisions on values and person-centered concerns rather than logic or objectivity. I pretty much straddle the line between Perceiving and Judging, barely preferring having a flexible, spontaneous approach to life and keeping things planned and organized. A good mix, I think.
Myers-Briggs said this in general about ENFP personality types:
"Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency."
Cool. So I'm an optimistic, creative, out-going kind of person. Now what? Well, I'm going to compare this to my StrengthsQuest test results, and then make an evaluation and how understanding myself can make me a better leader.
StrengthsQuest is a book by three individuals, each with a Ph.d, so I assume they have a pretty good idea about this stuff. Or at least, they've spent a lot of time and money thinking about it! When you buy the book, you have to buy it new because enclosed is a ONE TIME USE code that allows you to take the "Clifton StrengthsFinder" and discover your "Top 5."
The Top 5 are five traits each person is naturally endowed with. This is not to say that those five are the only ones, but they are the most obvious and the strongest. After taking the test, the idea is that one could expand and train these talents into SKILLS, or strengths, so instead of natural, wild talent, one has for their use a honed and strengthened skill. It's similar to building muscle; someone may be extraordinarily strong naturally, but imagine the kind of success that is had when pure talent is taken and toned until it becomes an unstoppable strength!
Now, my Top 5 are:
Empathy- Briefly, this means I can intuitively understand what people around me are feeling. I hear unvoiced questions, anticipate need, and assist others in expressing their feelings. I, as the description puts it, "Help them give voice to their emotional life." It also says that this ability draws people to me.

Developer-This trait is what draws me to people (remember the "Extraversion" from before? Yeah, that comes into play here!). I can see the potential in everyone I meet, and when I interact with them, my goal is to challenge them, put them through stretching experiences that cause growth, and I look hard to see change, even changes that might be invisible to some. This is another thing that draws people to me because they can sense that I honestly care for their success and want to help.

Input-I LOVE TO READ. And write. And learn. And that's what this trait is all about-gathering stuff: information, books, travel experiences, people, stories, WORDS, anything! I gather because the things I'm interested in are important, or at least could someday be important.

Includer-It has already been established that I like people, and that, in general, people like me. Well, when I see the good potential in others, I want them to be included. I want to get to know them. I avoid exclusive groups and head towards the ones that have a jumble of people. This is a result of my tendencies towards seeing others' potential and gathering. Who knows what interesting people could be hiding beneath the surface? Who knows what a little friendliness will do? Better invite them over!

Adaptability-This one ties back into the previous mention of "Perceiving," and how I prefer a bit of spontaneity. I prefer this description better than that word because "spontaneity" implies randomness, which doesn't complete the idea. I don't see the future as fixed, or pre-determined. I see it as something I create by choices I make, and I make those choices one at a time. I may have plans, but I am able to react well when other factors change them. I don't see a quick change of my plans as much of an inconvenience. To quote the actual description, "You are, at heart, a very flexible person who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once."

That was enlightening, wasn't it? The test also outlines weaknesses that come as a result of these traits, things I need to be aware of and avoid. I won't go over those now, but I can talk about what all of this means to me.
Knowing myself is crucial to becoming an effective leader because I will not be followed for long if I turn around halfway through the journey and ask my followers,
"Who am I?"
"What am I good at?"
"Can I even DO anything?"
Personality tests such as the two described above are only one way to discover oneself. Before I ever took these tests I had a pretty good understanding of myself and my strengths, to a point where the revelation of the above strengths and weaknesses did not come as a shock, but rather as a means of further discovering the finer attributes of my previously acknowledged abilities. Jesus Christ, as the ultimate leader, had to know who was. And he did. He spent countless hours on his own as well as among those he led, and those solitary moments, I can imagine, were spent in reflection and prayer as he more fully discovered his divine nature and his role as a leader on this mortal earth. I can learn from his example in so many ways, and especially in this. Christ knew he was a son of God, and he knew his calling was to suffer the Atonement and die for his brothers and sisters so we might be able to fulfill our divine potential of becoming like God without the pain and suffering of our many sins to prevent us from ever reaching that ultimate goal.
Knowing that I am also a daughter of God, that I have his love and that everyone else can have it to0, drives everything I do and everything I strive to become. I can be a leader for God's children, my heavenly siblings, EVERY DAY. All of these attributes I have been blessed with help me do this. When I care for and see the divine potential in others, when I include them in my life and help them get through those strengthening experiences, or trials, so they can discover their own strengths, when I maintain an eternal perspective and take others with me through this life to the next, glorious stage, I am being what I am meant to be: a disciple of Christ. A daughter of God. Someone truly worth following. Not for power or extraordinary feats, perhaps, but for love and service and my ability to give everyone the gift of seeing themselves as God sees them. Because love is the best way to serve. It is the only way to serve.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reading for Leading

Late again. Sigh. One of these days, I'll make it on time. This will NOT become a pattern!

Anyway. We had an interesting assignment last week. I saw the point, but I didn't like it as much. We were supposed to take what our speaker told us about different types of leadership for different situations and persons and find it in our lives/leadership roles. What if I don't use all of them in my life? I'll do my best...

The four types:

This is the nifty chart we used in class. I guess I'll see how I did with them in my two main leadership roles.

When I'm mentoring, I'm not going to delegate to a first-grader. First of all, she wouldn't be able to focus on the task without my constant supervision. She wants to play! And she might not understand the assignment without me there to explain each section of the assignment she needs to complete. I'm positive this is a form of Coaching, using high Directive and High Supportive behavior to accomplish a task. I like this form of leading because I feel like it helps me to grow as well as the person I'm working with.

The committee chair of C2G uses Delegation in leading the rest of us, so we go out and get the necessary jobs done. I, in my interactions with the Deans and Donor Liaisons of the various colleges I'm over, use Supporting. I meet with them, talk, bounce ideas, exchange assignments, and rarely have any need to DIRECT the DEAN, or any others. Mostly, I am providing support and help for them through my ideas, volunteer recruiting capabilities, or in gathering supplies/information for the colleges' individual activities.

Well, it's a week late, but it's there. I don't really ever use Directing or Delegating. Maybe occasionally with my roommates, and in small doses, but it's not incredibly apparent. Maybe later in my life I'll fill roles that require these themes of leadership.

Also, we're supposed to be reading a book on leadership for the next month. Taking a suggestion from my wonderful father, I am going to read "Leading without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community" by Max De Pree. I just got it in the mail yesterday, along with another title of his: "Leadership is an Art". Maybe I'll read both. Either way, I'm pretty excited. I read the introduction yesterday, and I can already tell this is going to be good!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Follow the Leader

"We're following the leader, the leader, the leader; we're following the leader wherever he may go."
There are many ways to learn how to lead; one can read histories or biographies of great leaders or perhaps by experience. The best way, however, is to watch others do it. I have had innumerable encounters with fantastic people displaying leadership in ways and types as varying as their individual personalities. Leadership can be and many times is found in unexpected places.

One leader who has influenced me, even in the years since I moved from under his direct influence, is the only man I have ever had the pride of calling "Coach." Coach Rockwood came into my life most in my junior year of high school when I joined Cross Country and became part of his team. I also took his semester class, "Sports Psychology." He was able to take leadership with him wherever he was--whether in the classroom or running across town.

I remember he was comfortable interacting with students; no one was ever afraid to approach him, and many students acted as if he was one of them. He was even more effective in that he could be a friend, but also the responsible teacher, coach, and leader. He inspired the cross country team, giving each of us as members a confidence boost while, at the same time, showing us where improvement could be made.

My favorite memory of my high school coach was the summer before my senior year, before I moved away from my hometown and on to new adventures. We had a "Cross Country Boot Camp." It was a week-long training camp intending to give us a taste of what we had in store for the coming year. All week we had speakers and athletic trainers and professionals of many sorts coming to speak to us about succeeding and accomplishing goals and not losing sight of our dreams. The topics of those lessons have been made fuzzy by the passing of time, but the result of their effect on me is something I will forever remember.

The end of this intense week was marked by a final run that would also set the beginning bar for all of our goals to be achieved in the next year. We were to run the mile as FAST and HARD as we possibly could, utilizing everything we had heard and learned and now believed. Previously, I was running an average 7-8 minute mile, and all I had in mind while the team was lining up was "under 7, please let it be under 7!" After hearing so many inspiring stories and thoughts, and after being told by my trusty coach that I could do ANYTHING, I truly believed I could do ANYTHING, my mind being the only limitation to overcome. The clock started. I ran harder than I ever had before, my heart and mind driving me forward. Life seemed to stand still, or speed by, I'm not sure which I felt more.

And then it was over.

Breathing heavily, heart pounding, legs and arms aching and weighing a million tons, muscles quivering, I waited to hear my time. Coach Rockwood came up and said, I remember distinctly, "Great job, BreeAnn. Six minutes, twenty-one seconds."

I about started crying. I had done it. And that man, my coach, had gotten me there. He had a vision, and as coach and leader of our team, his goal was to help each of us understand the great potential we each had. The things I learned from this man have, as I said previously, lasted beyond that day on the track.

In my interview with Coach Rockwood, I asked four questions, so I'll organize this blog accordingly.

What is leadership to you?

His response was "the ability to get other people to accomplish the vision you have," and service. Without service, a leader is not a leader; a leader cannot convince anyone to follow him if he does not serve them.

What are some of the attributes of a good leader?

Rockwood named several: a leader must be inspiring. He must be able to rouse passion and excitement in his followers, give them a sense of confidence, and make them believe the goal they share is within reach.

Another trait he mentioned was Vision. defines vision as: "something that is or has been seen; a mental image produced by the imagination." I particularly like the idea that vision and imagination go hand in hand by definition, and leadership requires both, I think. A leader must have a dream, or vision, and the brain is required to use some creative thinking to discover where a particular dream can or must lead. It is essential for a leader to know where he is going; he must have some idea of where he is taking his people. This reminds me of the quote: "There go my people; I must catch up with them, for I am their leader!" Because when a leader does not know where he is going, undeniably, someone else will take charge. If vision is lacking, there is no direction. Without direction, there is no leadership.

Integrity was the next crucial virtue, and it is easy to see why. A leader without virtue is like an umbrella without a handle. It's just a funny-looking, ineffective hat without its handle, and an absence of truthfulness and honor in a leader is just as insufficient. Look at Hitler; inarguably, he was a great leader. By great I mean remembered, but he is not remembered for his integrity or justice. Rather, he is thought of as a tyrant, his leadership was one bought with fear and greed and death. A leader of integrity will have a far more positive influence for change on the people he leads and many generations after, even if the display of his good character is only found in small things. Integrity is found in a name, like Honest Abe; it's found in a story, supposed to be myth, of a boy who confessed to chopping down a cherry tree. Even if the story isn't considered true, the important thing is that this story was told as an example of George Washington's integrity, something remembered by people all over the world. A truly great leader will be remembered as having integrity, not destroying it.

(At this point I must apologize to Coach Rockwood...he had another point, but I was unable to write it down at the time of the interview and I've forgotten. If you read this, coach, my apologies!)

Do you think the best leaders are those chosen by circumstance or those who step forward to fill a position?

This question was kind of interesting, and I wasn't sure of the response I was going to receive, but my coach didn't even hesitate. His response was an emphatic "Both." He reasoned that there have been and will continue to be great men and women, such as George Washington, who took a presidency by the helm and charged right in, justice and boldness arming a vision and purpose that refused to be challenged. At the same time, however, there are those who, by nature, are indeed leaders, but quieter. These individuals are not wielders of great broadswords, but, to maintain the analogy, hold more of a subtle bow-and-arrow. These leaders are often referred to as "shadow leaders." It may sound as if the people I have described are "hiding" or lacking courage. Not so. These people are just as valuable and strong as the man on the horse leading an army, but they are among the people, more so than most leaders holding a high position can be effectively. As long as they have vision, and they share that vision with integrity and inspiration, and in doing so serve the people they interact with, they are indeed a leader.

What are the biggest mistakes a leader can make?

Coach Rockwood expressly mentioned two things: one was indecisiveness. I can agree with this for sure, and I see it in my own life every day. It's not enough to have a vision if we lack the courage or confidence to take off into the great unknown and follow it. Success will never come if we never try--the surest way to fail is by getting stuck on making a decision, instead of acting with strength and surety of success. And if success doesn't come immediately, at least there will have been the experience to learn from, and if what you dream of is a good dream, acting as a road to growth and happiness, it will come true in time. Probably at a better time than you planned, and you will be able to meet it a better person.

The second mistake was lack of virtue. He was very strong on the point that virtue is power and righteousness. Without it, a leader is not strong. This is why Hitler, and others like him, ultimately failed. They were not virtuous leaders, relying on the strength and power of God to accomplish what they set out to do; those whose visions do not align with God's will ultimately fail, and will find themselves miserably misled in the end. Because Christ, God's son, is the best example of leader out there, if something we plan is not in harmony with his teachings, we will not be able to succeed. But when we are striving always to be virtuous, we will be given the strength and endurance, and POWER OF GOD to aid us in achieving our final goal.

Interviewing my coach was a great experience. I only wish I had been able to more accurately display his words here, but I think my explanations suffice. The most important thing I got out of my experiences with Coach Rockwood and the other leaders in my life is that I will get nowhere in my life without studying the leadership of others, especially and above all the lessons I can find in the life of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Now that's one leader I would be wise to never cease in following.

"And he sayeth unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
~Matthew 4:19