Lesson 20: Developing Leadership

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 180–86


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand basic leadership principles.

Introduction

  • What is leadership? (The ability to lead others)

The Church needs good leaders—men and women who can care for its rapidly growing membership, can conduct the business and maintain the order of the Church established by the Lord, can help others keep the commandments, and will stand firm for the cause of truth throughout the world.

Church leaders who strive to make the world better through living and teaching gospel principles are entitled to knowledge and inspiration. When we are led by such leaders, our homes, families, communities, and nations are strengthened. Our duty as priesthood bearers is to prepare ourselves to be inspired leaders, for our leadership may affect others throughout their lives.

Bishop Victor L. Brown expressed gratitude for the leaders in his early life. He said:

“I remember with some clarity the thrill of passing the sacrament as a deacon in the Cardston Second Ward, Alberta Stake, in Canada. …

“I remember how I considered it an honor to participate in such a sacred service. I remember so well how my parents taught me that my hands and heart should be clean and pure so that I would be worthy to participate in this ordinance.

“The greatest of all lessons was the example my father and mother set for me. Next was the example of my deacons quorum adviser, who was also my Scoutmaster. [He] was the epitome of what leaders of boys should be. Every boy under his leadership felt his great love. His influence was not limited to Sunday morning or Tuesday evening; it was felt all through the week. I shall ever be grateful to my deacons adviser for the lessons of life he taught me as a twelve-year-old deacon, lessons that have helped me from that day until now” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 101; or Ensign, July 1972, 89–90).

  • For what leaders was Bishop Brown grateful? Why were they effective leaders?

  • Have class members think about the following questions: What am I doing to prepare for leadership callings? What kind of a leader am I now? What kind of influence do I have on others?

What Is a Leader?

  • Show visual 20-a, “Like a true shepherd, a leader shows others the way, inspiring them to follow him.”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “The house of Israel is the choice sheepfold of the Lord, and those appointed to care for the sheep are the Lord’s shepherds. Thus anyone serving in any capacity in the Church in which he is responsible for the spiritual or temporal well-being of any of the Lord’s children is a shepherd to those sheep. The Lord holds his shepherds accountable for the safety (salvation) of his sheep. (Ezek. 34.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 710).

A true shepherd leads his sheep. He goes before them, giving directions. They know his voice and follow him. He knows and loves each one. He watches for approaching dangers and is ready to risk his life for his sheep. (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 417.)

Like a true shepherd, a leader inspires others to follow him and to fulfill their own duties. He shows the way by living the principles he teaches and by understanding and responding to others’ needs. A leader recognizes and solves problems, sets and achieves goals, and evaluates his own and his followers’ actions and makes and suggests improvements.

President Harold B. Lee, speaking of the time when he became President of the Church, explained what true leadership is: “Somehow the impressions that came to me were, simply, that the only true record that will ever be made of my service in my new calling will be the record that I may have written in the hearts and lives of those with whom I have served and labored, within and without the Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 19; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 24).

Qualities of a Good Leader

The Lord revealed in the scriptures the qualities that make a good leader.

  • Ask a class member to read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45. What leadership qualities does the Lord identify in this passage? (List the responses on the chalkboard.)

As the Lord indicates in this scripture, leaders should have the following qualities:

Persuasiveness

Persuasion is trying to convince others to do something. It is the opposite of ordering or forcing. One priesthood leader used persuasion to help a home teacher fulfill his assignment. The leader met with the home teacher and calmly explained that five families were being completely “cut off” from any communication with the bishop when the home teacher did not do his duty. He told the brother that if he did not want to do his assignment, another could be asked to replace him. The leader stressed, however, that he wanted the brother to fulfill his assignment. The home teacher reacted positively to this persuasion and greatly improved his work.

Long-Suffering

An effective leader endures his challenges, relying on the Lord for strength. He is also patient when working with others, especially with members of his own family.

Gentleness

Gentleness is being considerate. It is treating others’ feelings tenderly. It is love.

Meekness

Meekness is being teachable and patient. The meek are those who are willing to learn and ask for God’s help. Because of this meekness, others love and appreciate them.

Love Unfeigned

Unfeigned love is sincere love. It is true concern for others that is reflected in expressions and actions that show “I really care how you feel,” “I understand you,” and “I want to help.”

Kindness

Kindness is showing sincere love, care, and respect for others. A kind leader gets to know others and is sensitive to their needs. He makes time to counsel with individuals privately.

Charity

A good leader must have charity, the pure love of Christ, for all people. This love includes sacrificing for the well-being of others.

One father, teaching his sons to become good leaders, said: “From the prophets and from the Prince of Peace, learn how to lead, beginning with yourselves. Stand on your own feet. Stand tall. Hold your heads high as though you are truly sons of God, which you are. Walk among men as holders of powers beyond your own, which you have, through the priesthood. Move on the good earth as though you are partners of the Lord in helping to bring immortality and eternal life to mankind, which you are. Walk quietly, … but walk fearlessly, in faith. Don’t let the ill winds sway you. Walk as leaders with the priesthood in the government of God. Walk with hands ready to help, with hearts full of love for your fellowmen. But walk with a toughness in righteousness” (Wendell J. Ashton, in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 61; or Ensign, June 1971, 58).

Leadership Responsibilities

If we are to become good leaders, we should also do the following:

  • Write these qualities on the chalkboard as they are discussed.

Learn Our Duties

The Lord has instructed us as priesthood holders to learn the duties of our callings and to carry out these duties (see D&C 107:99). We can learn our duties by studying the scriptures and the guidebooks, handbooks, and manuals provided by the Church. We can talk with others who hold or have held the same position. We need to attend all our leadership meetings and personal interviews. We also need to pray and sometimes fast for help in learning our duties.

Fulfill Our Stewardship

Stewardship has two parts: delegation of authority and accountability.

Delegation of authority

As leaders we must learn to delegate authority to others. This means giving others the responsibility to do tasks under our direction and then allowing them to do the work. President Harold B. Lee said: “Let them do everything within their power, and you stand in the background and teach them how to do it. I think therein is the secret of growth, to fix responsibility and then teach our people how to carry that responsibility” (quoted by N. Eldon Tanner, “Leading As the Savior Led,” New Era, June 1977, 6).

We as leaders help those under our direction realize the importance of their callings. Leadership is not bossing; leadership is offering and giving help and direction; leadership is inspiring and encouraging those to whom we have given responsibility. (See Matthew 23:11.)

Accountability

The Lord said, “It is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity” (D&C 72:3). When we give assignments to others, we should clearly define the responsibilities of the assignments, leaving the people free afterward to complete them as they see best. However, we should give them a specified time to report to us on their progress.

This kind of report, or accounting, should always be made to one’s leaders. In the Church this is often done through personal interviews. During the interview, leaders can give counsel and evaluate how well the task was done. In doing so, however, the leader should always remain positive and helpful, offering praise and encouragement when appropriate.

This, then, is the way we fulfill a stewardship as a leader in the Church: (1) assign a task, (2) allow the individual to carry it out, (3) offer assistance, (4) receive a report, and (5) evaluate the service and commend the individual for it.

Be Good Fathers

Our most important leadership role is as fathers. President Joseph F. Smith instructed fathers on how to lead their families well: “Fathers, if you wish your children to … love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. … When you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger; do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly. … Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly towards you. Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned” (Liahona: The Elders’ Journal, 17 Oct. 1911, 1:260–61).

Sustain Our Authorities

A good leader is also a good follower of those in authority over him. Good followers earn the trust and confidence of both their leaders and those they lead. We should all support our leaders by accepting and fulfilling the assignments they give us.

  • Who are our leaders? (Parents, teachers, group or quorum leaders, bishop or branch president, stake or mission president, and General Authorities of the Church)

  • Bear your testimony about someone you feel is an effective Church leader.

Conclusion

We must develop our leadership skills if we are to magnify our Church callings. Obeying God’s commandments, following our leaders’ counsel, and faithfully serving in our callings will help us develop these skills and build the Lord’s kingdom (see D&C 64:29–34).

As priesthood holders we will always be leaders. This is especially true for every father who holds the priesthood: he will always have a leadership position in the Church by being the patriarch to his family. Those fathers who have been sealed to their families in the temple will hold this position eternally if they keep their covenants.

Challenge

Thoughtfully review the leadership qualities presented in this lesson. Work to develop them in your own life by obeying the commandments, following your leaders’ counsel, and serving faithfully in every calling and assignment.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Be prepared to bear your testimony about someone who is an effective Church leader.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.