"Discovering the Future Leader Within You"

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Matt Smith can sympathize with students facing Capstone stress and upcoming life decisions. He was a BYU engineering student not too long ago. However, having worked his way up to the rank of vice president of manufacturing at BD Medical (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), he reassured students at Thursday’s lecture that their prospects are bright and there is a world of excitement ahead.

“This is a very exciting time for each of you in your lives,” Smith said. “There are a lot of decisions that you’ll make here for your future. Where will you work? Where will you live? Maybe it is a little nerve-racking at times… but I believe that the excitement should outweigh the nervousness you may feel.”

Smith said that if students “discover the leader within” themselves, there are many opportunities available to them.

“The world is truly starved for good men and women, future leaders, who truly exhibit integrity, purpose and character, and those are the things that characterize the students at this university.”

Smith shared four points that have helped him realize his leadership potential.

1. Find where your values, passion and personal best intersect.

In order to find success (and avoid boredom and mediocrity), Smith emphasized the importance of finding work that is both interesting and plays to one’s strengths.

“Get as broad of experience as you can. Whether it’s in summer internships, co-op opportunities or volunteer work, through those hands-on experiences, you’ll be able to find where you have the most joy and success.”

Smith also said that money shouldn’t be the primary decision driver when selecting a field of work.

“When you find this place where you’re passionate about it and good at it, you’ll excel and companies will pay you competitively for what you do.”

2. Establish your personal accountability.

Smith said that successful leaders take accountability for their mistakes as well as their accomplishments.

“You have to own the outcome.”

This concept became clear to Smith during his career. He saw two types of engineers: the kind that accepted mediocrity and didn’t feel accountable for the outcome of their work and the kind that were willing to go the extra mile because they were personally invested in the results of their projects.

“Own the result. Be accountable for the result. Leaders who are truly successful understand this concept.”

3. Define your purpose clearly.

Smith encouraged students to have a vision of what they want to get done. Whether beginning a new job, starting a new project or simply heading into a meeting, the following questions should be posed:

 “Ask yourself, what am I trying to get done here? What am I trying to accomplish?”

This aspect of leadership applies to personal life as well as career advancement.

“Be clear about and stay focused on your purpose”

4. Know when to be a sheepherder and when to be a shepherd.

Smith discussed the difference between two kinds of leaders: the sheepherder and the shepherd. A sheepherder is someone who rides behind the herd, pushing them forward. A shepherd, by contrast, walks out ahead of his charges, leading the way for the sheep to follow.

“There are both kinds of leaders in the world, but you find that with a shepherd, the sheep follow out of trust and love, not fear.”

To close his remarks, Smith again said how much the world needs leaders with character and integrity. BYU graduates, in his words, meet a global need for these kinds of people.

Smith graduated with a Manufacturing Engineering degree from BYU 15 years ago and went on to receive an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has worked in a variety of engineering and operation roles. His current employer, BD Medical is a multi-billion dollar global company that specializes in medical technologies. Smith currently oversees a sector that holds a significant market share of the world’s syringes.

The Leadership Lecture Series is organized by the Weidman Center for Global Leadership. The next lecture, featuring Amy Rees Anderson, will be March 14.  For more information, www.et.byu.edu/leadershiplectures.

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