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.

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