Have you ever had the opportunity to rise above the clouds and gaze down upon them? Clouds appear different from above than from the earth’s surface. We are accustomed to the billowy cumulus, the feathery cirrus, or the bold and dark nimbus formations. We see them move and catch glimpses of the blue sky beyond their temporary ceiling.
But when you rise above the clouds, they look completely different. It is particularly breathtaking from the windows of a jet airplane racing 10,000 meters above sea level. They appear as mountains and valleys. Every once in a while you see flowing formations that seem to be rivers and streams. Did you know that there are shadows on clouds? As you fly high above the earth you see only the blue sky above and the sun’s shadows bouncing from one cloud to another below you.
Frequently you discern a break in the white tufts and catch a glimpse of a river or highway thousands of meters below framed by white. Gray, blue, and red rooftops of a city or contrasted yellow, green, and brown fields become colored squares as on a child’s art paper.
Your views take on a completely different perspective above the clouds.
Each year in the Church, bishoprics “set apart” thousands of youth leaders in the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women programs. Whoever coined the phrase must have been impressed, because to be “set apart” is very much like flying above the clouds. As you become leaders in your youth, you are separated in a way from the rest of the world. You must see things differently and analyze and behave on a different level.
Joseph Smith, a youth chosen to become the prophet leader for the restoration of the gospel, was “set apart” from the world at the age of our modern-day teachers quorum president when he was visited by God the Father, who introduced his Beloved Son, Jehovah. The Lord then forbade Joseph to join any church. Never again could the young Joseph return to his previous way of life. Before him lay a new pathway of leadership. A pathway that was risky, requiring unselfish service but yielding love and loyalty from those he served. He was forever “set apart” to lead. He had a new and higher perspective of life and of his fellowmen.
The call to lead both requires and provides the opportunity for you to change. Your peers must now be seen as your spiritual responsibility. Activities that you once came to participate in are now yours to plan and organize. Advisers and bishoprics are now your co-workers. You no longer hear announcements; you make them. You are “set apart” to a leadership calling in order to assume leadership actions.
You probably had no advance warning of your current calling. Undoubtedly your young age suggests an absence of much leadership experience. You may have never visualized yourself as a leader. However, in order to be successful for the Lord and happy with yourself, you must come to see yourself as an effective, competent, and responsible leader. The New Testament teaches that you cannot pour new wine in old bottles, or sew new patches on decaying clothes. You must grow to fill the calling.
Forsake the myth that leaders are born and not made. Two examples are readily available. Moses spent 40 years in the Pharaoh’s court, followed by another 40 years in the desert. He did not know that the Lord was preparing him for a tremendous leadership role, yet after 80 years of preparation when the call came upon the sacred mount, Moses in desperate fear responded, “Who am I, that I should go, … They will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice, … I am not eloquent, … I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Ex. 3:11; Ex. 4:1, 10).
Enoch had to change his self-image. He eventually became the powerful, beloved prophet whose service was so inspired that all his people became united as one mind. So tremendous was their love for each other that they were taken as a society to the bosom of the Lord. Enoch did not start out the natural, popular, dynamic personality of his neighborhood. Upon his divine call to lead, he frantically asked the Lord, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:30).
To all you youth leaders who wonder if the bishop was truly inspired when he called you or who picture yourself as making an assignment that may be rejected by a member of your quorum or class, rest assured that you are called as God’s partner and he will add to your dimension. He encouraged Moses by reminding him, “Who hath made man’s mouth? … Go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Ex. 4:11–12). Enoch was encouraged when the Lord promised him, “Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance” (Moses 6:32). What the Lord did for Enoch and Moses, he will surely do for you.
When you are called, sustained, and set apart, the Lord will bless you. However, much depends upon your actions and motivation. He will not fill a leaky vessel. There are leadership skills that can and must be learned. Though simple in concept, when you master them the impact of your leadership will dramatically increase.
To preside effectively it will be necessary for you to master the following skills:
Remember to follow through.
Effectively use your time.
See the total picture.
Evaluate the impact.
Your quorum or class members will seldom rise above their own expectations. These aspirations must be clear, concise, and yet flexible. As the title of a popular book suggests, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”
1. What are your objectives or priesthood purposes?
2. Are they reasonable and beneficial?
3. What needs to be done to accomplish those objectives?
4. What people, money, and time resources are available?
5. When should you accomplish them?
6. What restrictions do you need to understand?
A plan is just a wish unless action follows. Always expect others to do their job; then call them, encouraging them towards their responsibility.
1. Have you written down your “things to do” and reviewed them frequently?
2. Immediately after a meeting, do you list all you need to do in order to follow up on that meeting?
3. Do you call people during the week to remind them of an activity or assignment?
There is no such thing as a lack of time. You always have time for those activities you value and hold most important. Learn how to decide what’s most important. Know how to use your time. Everyone in the world has the same 24 hours per day of this irretrievable treasure.
1. Have you established priorities?
2. Have you eliminated activities that do not help you achieve your goals?
3. Do you plan your work and work your plan and work at what you have planned?
4. Are you letting others become involved in the work by making assignments?
“Oh, I see now,” is the great discovery which ends frustration and gets one on his way with confidence. If you want your quorum or class to become involved, enhance that possibility by letting them see how what they are doing fits into the larger scheme or plan. Let them visualize the worth and sequence of activities and their relationship to other ideas and goals. Don’t limit the vision of the plan.
1. Do you see the larger perspective held by your bishopric and advisers?
2. When you are making an assignment, do you explain to the person why the assignment is important and how it fits into the overall program?
If you are to succeed, you must delegate responsibilities. Multiply yourself as a leader by making assignments. Always include in the planning those people who will carry out the plan. Expect others to succeed and fulfill their assignments. Provide everyone in your group with an opportunity to contribute and then help each to succeed. Build on strengths and allow others to stretch themselves.
1. How often do you ask yourself, “Is this something another member of the class or quorum can do well?”
2. When you make an assignment do you clearly point out the purpose, the worth, the time, and the extent of the job?
3. Are you flexible to the point that you look for results, understanding that there may be many ways to accomplish a task?
4. Do you ask for a progress report along the way, using specific questions?
5. Do you have time at the conclusion of the assignments for the others to report what they have done?
You cannot work and meet simultaneously, so limit your meetings and make them effective. Plan each meeting and consider what you want to accomplish and what you must do in the meeting to accomplish the desired results. Each meeting must have a purpose, a conclusion, and effective use of time in between.
1. Are you organized, and do you have an agenda?
2. Are you confident and enthusiastic as you direct the meeting?
3. In your welcome to the class do you recognize important people who are there?
4. Are minutes read so that you are reminded of past plans and assignments?
5. Do you make others feel good in the meetings?
6. Are the feelings and opinions of others recognized and used?
7. Do you thank those who participate?
8. Does everyone leave with clear ideas and expectations?
9. When you turn the time over to the instructor or speaker do you use appropriate enthusiasm, humor, and compliments as you introduce him?
10. Are you a good representative of the Lord and his church?
Effective and concise plans make evaluations easy; all you have to do is to see how well your goals were achieved. After you analyze what has been accomplished, concentrate on those areas that were not acceptable.
1. Were your goals realistic and important in the first place?
2. Were you happy with what happened, and were the achievements within your realm of acceptability?
3. What would you do differently if you had it to do again?
4. Who would you get to help you?
Mastering these leadership skills will do much to improve your effectiveness as a leader. But to truly succeed, you must always remember in whose work you are engaged. Your purpose is not simply to get things done. You are serving the Lord and his children, and to do this well you must learn to love them.
Contemplate your calling to leadership. Visualize your great opportunity. Avoid the feeling of one young man who listed on a scholarship application under the section for church assignments, “The usual leadership positions.” There is no such thing as a usual leadership position when one acts in the name of the Lord.
Your bishopric has set you apart as they laid their hands on your head. Now it is your turn to get your head above the clouds, to see your world from a higher perspective. You are a leader entitled to inspiration from the Lord as you magnify your assignment.