Setting a Good Example

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 20–27

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

Principle of Leadership

Leaders should set an example of discipleship for the people they serve.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    When leaders work to develop attributes of Jesus Christ, they set an example for those they serve.

Concept 1. When Leaders Work to Develop Attributes of Jesus Christ, They Set An Example for Those They Serve.


When the resurrected Lord visited the Americas, He explained to His disciples that letting their light shine meant emulating Him (see 3 Nephi 18:24).

Speaking of leadership in the Church, Elder James E. Faust, when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, remarked: “Those who would lead in this Church must set the example of personal righteousness. They should seek for the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit. They should have their lives and homes in order. They should be honest and prompt in the paying of their bills. They must be exemplary in all their conduct” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 53; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, 36).

Elder Dean L. Larsen, who was then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, explained: “Those who receive the gospel are expected to manifest its fruits in their lives, not only for their own benefit and blessing, but for the purpose of drawing others to the truth. …

“… In significant ways their lives will manifest the fruits of the gospel and set them apart as a beacon to all who are seeking for light and truth” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 85; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 68).

President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote: “By its very nature, true leadership carries with it the burden of being an example. … If values aren’t established and adhered to at the top, behavior down the ranks is seriously jeopardized and undermined. Indeed, in any organization where such is the case—be it a family, a corporation, a society, or a nation—the values being neglected will in time disappear” (Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes [2000], 170).

Leaders are more able to help people when they try to exemplify the Savior’s life and teachings. The Lord “continued from grace to grace” until He became perfect (D&C 93:13). His attributes include knowledge, power, justice, judgment, kindness, mercy, patience, truth, humility, meekness, submissiveness, graciousness, gentleness, wisdom, self-denial, obedience, commitment to honoring our agency, compassion, fearlessness, integrity, and cheerfulness. (Note: Any of these attributes might become the topic of a lesson.)

Leaders who develop these attributes will know how to communicate clearly with those they lead, love them without trying to control them, rejoice in their goodness and achievements, and resist Satan’s temptations. When we do not follow Jesus Christ’s example, we run the risk of discouraging people from coming to Christ. As Alma explained to his wayward son, “Behold, O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words” (Alma 39:11).

Teaching Idea

Ask students to analyze the meaning of the Savior’s statement, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and discuss it as a class (see also John 9:5; 3 Nephi 9:18; 11:11; Ether 4:12; D&C 11:28; 12:9; 45:7; 88:5–13).

Why should Church and family leaders live gospel principles themselves, and not just encourage others to do so?

Discuss as a class character traits the Savior displayed, and list them on the board. Ask how developing these traits in our lives will help us be better leaders. Discuss what Matthew 16:24 (including the JST addition in footnote 24d) and Alma 39:11 teach about the importance of example.

Testify to students that as they follow the Savior’s example, they reflect His light for others to follow. Remind students that like Him we must grow “from grace to grace” (see D&C 93:13; see also 2 Nephi 28:30).

Teacher Resources

Gordon B. Hinckley