Leadership and inspiration through the power of councils

The Weidman Center for Global Leadership hosted its second leadership lecture of the semester on March 24. BYU President Kevin J Worthen spoke to students about the power of councils and how they can help leaders achieve success.

In his lecture, President Worthen cited many examples of councils in both the secular world and the scriptures. One of the greatest examples of councils can be found in the Book of Abraham, in which the Gods counsel among themselves on many matters concerning the creation of the world.

“It’s pretty clear that, as part of the creative process, there was counseling going on on an ongoing basis,” President Worthen said. “For Heavenly Father, it would’ve been easy enough for Him to simply say, ‘Look, do it.’ … Yet He’s counseling throughout the whole process and allowing councils to go on, obviously for some benefit from that.”

With participation from the audience, President Worthen outlined some of the many benefits of councils.

New Perspectives. Everyone has a different perspective. Councils create a larger base of ideas.

Mutual Ownership. People are more energeticand invested when they have contributed their time, effort and ideas.

Future Leadership.  Being a part of a council better prepares people to be leaders. It helps an organization to develop leaders for the future.

Delegating Responsibilities. Councils can take advantage of the unique skills of its individual members, making them more efficient.

Inspiration. Better ideas are created through councils.

Revealing Shortcomings. Councils help people become aware of ways they can improve.

President Worthen gave three rules he considers most important for having a successful council and related them to the scriptures.

1. Everyone has to have the ability to speak equally

“Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”

D&C 88: 122

When everyone can speak on every issue, the council will have much better ideas. Even though that doesn’t mean every idea will be adopted, each member’s input is invaluable to the council.

“Often, as the head of the council, someone would say something and, all of a sudden, I would know what the answer was, and it wasn’t what they said,” President Worthen said. “But what they said allowed me to look at the problem from a different angle.”

At times, this process can be slower than if one person makes all the decisions. But, in the long-run, fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking leads to better solutions.

“There are a lot of things we do in life that are inefficient, that have larger gains in other aspects,” he said. “We work with each other and it may not be the most efficient way to reach a particular decision, but the overall outcome is going to be really efficient in terms of accomplishing what we hope to accomplish in the long run."

2. Unanimity in All Things

“And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other.”

D&C 107: 27

While this rule can be difficult to follow all the time, President Worthen encouraged students to strive towards this standard. A good example of this rule being practiced is in the Church’s leadership. He shared a story about President Henry B Eyring from before he was a general authority, when he was sitting in on a meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve.

“He said the first thing that surprised him was how frank, yet civil, the members of the Quorum of the Twelve were with each other,” President Worthen said. “They did not instantly agree on how [the issue] should be resolved.”

As the meeting continued, President Eyring was surprised that the members were starting to reach a consensus, despite disagreeing at the start.

“Then came the real miracle. [President Harold B. Lee] said, ‘Brethren, I sense that somebody here is not settled. We’re going to hold this over until the next meeting,’” he said. “They went out and one of the senior brethren leaned over and said, ‘Thank you, I still had some concerns I couldn’t quite articulate but I wanted to think about.’”

3. Don’t Delegate Up

Finally, President Worthen urged students not to delegate upwards. In many organizations, it’s common for people to present two solutions, along with the pros and cons of each, to their manager, and have the manager make the decisions. While this may not seem like a bad idea, it isn’t the best method.

“That is not as helpful a model as when you come in and do exactly both of those things and say, ‘Here’s solution A, and all the ramifications, here’s solution B, and all its ramifications,’ and then say, ‘Let me tell you what I recommend,’” President Worthen said.

When counselors are given the responsibility of making a recommendation, they will research more deeply into the issue and be much more critical of their information. It puts them into the decision-maker’s position and gives them an important perspective to consider.

Finally, President Worthen challenged students to look for the enduring principles that influence all aspects of life and how they can be applied in new situations.

“I would challenge you to think about the things you will learn in your religion classes and how they apply in this and vice versa,” he said. “And if you can holistically blend these together, there are all kinds of interesting connections that come.”

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