Leadership in the Church
Every missionary is a leader. You lead investigators and members to become, “true followers…of Jesus Christ,” (Mor. 7:48) in the work of salvation. This is the purpose of leadership in the church and is behind every calling in the church including calls to lead a companion or other missionaries in the mission field. Section 3 of Handbook 2, Church Administration, outlines principles of Leadership in the Church as you help others become faithful disciples. These leadership principles transcend the church and also work in business, at home and other relationships in your life. These principles are worth learning and perfecting.
Prepare Spiritually. I am a jogger. I do not know if it makes me healthier but jogging in the morning makes me feel better all day long. Jogging prepares me for a good day. Early one Sunday morning in Flowell, Utah in November 1996, I was jogging past our Ward meeting house. The pickup trucks of the Bishopric were parked in the parking lot; they were meeting in the building. I remember thinking about the great work they had done for the past 5 years. It occurred to me that they should soon be released. The Spirit then flooded over me and I not only knew I would be the new Bishop but I was also given who my councilors should be. I stopped and looked at the building, amazed at what had just happened. When the call came in late December, I had already humbled myself before the Lord and begun spiritually preparing myself for that intense and rewarding experience. Leaders must be converted and be growing spiritually. Through this preparation you will receive inspiration to guide you in your personal life and your calling. The Lord said, “…if ye are prepared ye shall not fear,” (DC 38:30). You are all leaders.
Participate in Councils. All levels in the church are governed by councils such as the Council of the First Presidency, the Bishopric, Ward Council, Relief Society Presidency, High Council, Mission Leader Council, etc. In councils, leaders meet under the direction of the presiding officer. Members of councils are encouraged by the presiding officer to share their honest feelings and ideas, communicate clearly and listen to one another. Effective councils unify their efforts in responding to needs of individuals first and then the organization. The presiding officer has the responsibility to make the final decision, but this normally comes only after unity is reached by members of the council.
At Sunrise we tried to duplicate this church leadership model. As the CEO, I appointed two Senior Vice Presidents, we were akin to a Stake Presidency. We counseled with each other and delayed decisions regarding day to day operations until we were unified. The Board of Directors was much like a High Council. As President of the Board I tried, and usually succeeded, in encouraging discussion of issues (the strategic and corporate policy decisions) until unity of all Board members was reached. Our rule was that every member always publicly supports the decision after the meetings.
You must always play your role in a council run organization for that organization to work with harmony and unity. For example, at various times, I have been the Bishop or the presiding officer, a member of the Ward Council such as Young Men President and a Sunday school teacher not on the Ward Council. As the bishop I had to facilitate discussion and make decisions. As a council or organization member, I was responsible to follow my leader.
Minister to Others. The most important function of leadership in the Church is to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of individuals. Ministering means to reach out to individuals, love them without judging them, remember their names, establish sincere friendships, teach them, etc. Managing the organization is not the top priority. This Lord said:
5 Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. (DC 81:5)
106 And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also. (DC 84:106)
Always be training your replacement and your greatest desire should be to see people excel. After I served as Bishop the next two Bishops in the Flowell Ward had been my Executive Secretary and my 2nd Councilor. Plus, I was happy to see a substantial up-tick from my performance when those two gentlemen served as Bishop. Give people opportunities to serve and the Lord will qualify those he calls as they exercise faith, work diligently, receive instructions and receive support. Another word for this is delegation. Always explain the purpose of assignments, check their progress, express appreciation for their efforts and ask people to report back.
Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All leaders are teachers. Most everyone has been to seminars where famous speakers come and deliver very appealing speeches that inspire. You resolve to change your life and 9 times out of 10 by the end of the week you have forgotten what was said and you are back to your old habits. But, effective teaching by leaders not only inspires people but also motivates people to do something different.
The most powerful teaching of leaders comes from their personal example. At Sunrise, I had been in the business for 35 years, I had successfully done many projects and seen many situations. My employees knew this and therefore my personal example gave me moral authority. I could literally say, “Follow me. I have done this successfully before.” They respected that and welcomed the assistance on their projects.
At Sunrise, I taught the doctrine of engineering to employees: how to design projects to deliver the best value for the client’s dollar, how to write contract documents to keep us out of court, how to work effectively with contractors, clients and agencies, etc.
In the Church, you teach doctrine of the gospel from the scriptures and latter day prophets. Ensure that teachings are meaningful, edifying, doctrinally sound and needed. Warn against sin but love the sinner. Always encourage reverence, a calm and peaceful attitude of worship and respect toward God.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” (Boyd K. Packer, Little Children, Nov. 1987 Ensign)
Administer the Organization. At Sunrise we understood that regardless of the engineered piping and concrete we put into the ground with excellent blue prints and engineering procedures, we were still in the people business. Every business activity was focused on the people we worked for or with on each project. We found much less success when we focused on the project instead of the people we were serving.
The whole purpose of church leadership is to do the work of salvation by assisting people to be true followers of Jesus Christ. The organization must still be operated and programs planned, but it is essential that leaders organize and plan activities, lessons and other efforts to bless the lives of individual people. Always plan with a purpose to this end and evaluate after the activity how well the plan accomplished its purposes. Always use church handbooks, reports, instructions, training materials and magazines to help fulfill your duties.