7 Smart Habits of LDS Youth Leaders

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There’s no such thing as a perfect youth leader. But, if one existed, what would they look like? What kind of habits would they have? Taking some time to understand this will help you know what to work on. This journey in the gospel is one of constant self-improvement and our callings are meant to stretch us and help us to become more like the Savior. Here are some habits you can work on, while you are in that state of becoming.

Make Time to Develop Yourself

Our callings can be a big investment of time and resources. We need to have something to give. This is why it’s so important to start with yourself.  Taking time for prayer, scripture study, exercise, eating right and sleeping enough will help you have the strength you need to serve. I’ve been guilty of not taking good care of myself and I ended up unable to take care of anyone else for a time. It’s just not worth it to do that to yourself!

Want to read more about self-development? Read my posts  4 Things Effective Youth Leaders Do to Take Care of Themselves and The Shocking Truth about Goals and Leadership

Allow Others to Make Mistakes and Learn from Them

This one can be hard. It can be really hard to watch someone struggle through something that you can do quickly and easily. What happens when you or someone else aren’t there to do things for them?

We can wear ourselves out trying to be everywhere at once and to be all things to all people. There’s enough room in the Church and in the programs of the Church for imperfection.

Rather then stepping in and taking over, I suggest spending the energy on evaluating activities and events after the fact. This can really help people learn from their experiences

Be Generous with Praise

For awhile I had a very simple habit goal of taking 15 minutes every morning to write a short thank you note to someone who had done something meaningful for me. I was always very specific about what I was thanking them for. Very often, I wouldn’t hear much back, if anything. However, my secretary wrote back to me after I’d sent her a thank you note, letting me know that she hadn’t realized that what she’d done had made such a difference to me. I could tell that she felt validated and affirmed by what I had said to her.

Building people up will always have more power than even the best-worded constructive criticism.

Be Careful of Talking too Much

When I was serving as Young Women President and then was released and immediately called as second counselor. I served with a president who put a lot of weight on what I said. I began to become concerned that she was relying on my opinions of how things should be done too much. I also noticed that her first counselor was not sharing her thoughts and opinions. I was worried that my willingness to jump in and answer every question might be keeping us from truly counseling together.

So, I tried a little experiment. I picked a number and decided that I would only speak that number of times during our presidency meeting. I was hoping it would create a space for the first counselor to share her thoughts. I was thrilled when I saw her start to share more in our meetings.

It’s important to remember that in our councils, everyone should be encouraged to talk and share their opinions.

Build Consensus

As I said above, it’s really important to make meetings a place where everyone participating can be heard. I found that very often, the answer was in listening to everyone’s opinions and then deciding. This helps people feel heard and to align with a decision they may not even agree with.

Get more help with with how to counsel together by reading or listening to Counseling with Our Councils by M. Russell Ballard.

Focus on What’s Most Important

It can be really easy to lost focus on what is most important. Make sure you take the time to regularly review the objectives of the Young Women Program or the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood, depending on where your calling is. The bottom line is that we are helping the youth to draw closer to Christ. It can be very easy as we plan camps, youth conferences and other activities to forget the main reason we are doing them.

Be Wise with Your Time and Resources

From time to time, requests will come your way that you may decide are not right for you or your organization. You are not an unlimited resource, nor are the people who serve with you. It’s good to have the wisdom to know when and how to say no and to place limits on what you ask of others and yourself.

Want to know more about how to tell people no without completely letting them down? I absolutely love The Power of a Positive No by William Ury.

4 Things Effective Youth Leaders Do to Take Care of Themselves

My very first girls’ camp as an adult was pretty rough on the first day. I thought I was doing the right thing by making sure the young women were all settled. Then an adult leader showed up to our campground late, asking where she could find everyone. I began to walk her to the waterfront. I suddenly felt dizzy. My knees gave out under me. What on earth was wrong!?

So, what was wrong with me? A classic case of heat exhaustion. I had been so preoccupied with making sure my young women had what they needed, I had forgotten to take care of myself. I hadn’t had anything to drink or sat down or gotten out of the sun. That was a super-foolish thing to do in the hot and humid Indiana summer.

Now, why would I tell you this?

To truly be effective as leaders, we need to be able to “lead ourselves”. As Elder Holland has said, if we don’t make time to be well, we will be forced to make time to be sick later on.

I do hear from a lot of youth leaders who feel like they struggle to maintain some semblance of balance. They’re not sure how to take care of themselves, their marriages and their families and give their calling the attention it deserves.

In this post, we’ll focus on taking care of ourselves first, I’ll save the topics of marriage and family for another day. If you think of others to add to my list, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Daily Prayer and Scripture Study

For me, this is my daily dose of personal peace that helps me start my day. On days when I forget, the first thing I notice is that I’m incredibly grumpy. Then I reflect back to whether or not I prayed and studied and I realize that hadn’t. I’ve learned through time and experience that I have more patience to handle my day with it than without it. As a matter of fact, pretty much everything is better with it.

So, what are some things daily prayer and scripture study can do for us as leaders?

  • gain personal revelation for any task we need to do involved with our callings
  • help us prepare to teach, whether or not our study involves the topic we’re preparing to teach.
  • help us have the patience we need when dealing with difficult situations that stem from our callings
  • help us understand and have empathy for those we serve with and those we serve
  • help us find wisdom as we try to balance our personal lives with our callings
  • help us to have the Spirit with us at all times

Diet and Exercise

Now, I could do much better on the diet part. I am a huge fan of exercise. That’s something I do pretty well with. Consider what Elder Scott has to say about this:

I love this because I have always felt that exercise improves my ability to feel the Spirit!

What can proper diet and exercise do for us as leaders?

  • Provide stamina and physical strength to keep up with the youth.
  • Provide an outlet for anxiety and other strong emotions, which can help you be more patient
  • enhance revelation
  • help you sleep better
  • give you more energy

Sleep

This one matters a lot! You can’t get very far without sleeping. A few weeks ago, I learned about this the hard way. A flight delay left me stuck in New York on my way home from an international trip. It meant that I ended up staying awake for about 38 hours without being able to sleep for more than an hour at a time. I tried to stay awake on the day I got home, but as soon as I sat still, I fell asleep. It took me a couple of days to recover. I don’t recommend trying it!

Now, there may be circumstances that interfere with your sleep that you can’t help: new baby, sleep disorder, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the need we have sometimes to exchange our sleep to get things done that really aren’t more important. This really helps no one, especially yourself. You will simply become spread more thinly than you are. It’s very much a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. You will honestly be able to give so much more when you are well-rested!

What can a sleep in proper amounts help us do?

  • feel the Spirit
  • have the strength and stamina to keep up with the youth
  • stay focused and complete tasks faster
  • solve problems
  •  keep things in a proper perspective
  • be more patient and generous

Reading

Now, you may enjoy reading or you may not. This is something that can help you a lot if you enjoy reading. And, no matter what you read, it will help you as a leader! Reading helps us to:

  • think better
  • improve our people skills
  • master communication
  • relax (other hobbies can do this for us, too)
  • keeps us young

Thanks to Michael Hyatt for this info on reading and leaders. 

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself, so you can lead?