Following the Leader

By Sally Johnson Odekirk

Church Magazines

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Teens in Washington and Idaho discuss what makes a good leader and a good follower.

“Do as I’m doing, follow, follow me” (Children’s Songbook, 276).

This was a fun singing activity in Primary. But what do you do now that you’ve been called to lead your priesthood quorum or Young Women class? All around the world, teens in the Church wonder that very thing.

Fortunately, you are not left alone. There are loving and wise leaders to follow, counsel given by others, and examples from the scriptures. Recently young men and young women from eastern Washington and northern Idaho discussed what they have learned in their callings.

Following Their Leaders

For some LDS teens, their youth leaders are also their parents. Hillary Lake, 18, of the Mica Peak Ward, Spokane Valley Stake, learned about leadership from her mother, who is a stake Young Women president. “She doesn’t serve because it’s a calling and she has to do it. She serves because she loves to.”

Tegan Monaghan, 17, who attends the Sullivan Ward in the same stake, says that leaders are great mentors. “They are so loving, no matter what, and want the best for you,” she says. “They remember your name, and they are there for you.”

Being able to talk to leaders not only helps in dealing with day-to-day life, but it also sets a good example in how to lead. Lani Call, 17, of the Pines Ward, Spokane East Stake, says, “The fact that they are willing to take time one-on-one and just talk to me and are willing to take as much time as needed means the world to me. You should always talk to your parents, but it’s important to be able to talk to the leaders, too.”

Another way to learn about leadership is to choose good friends. “The best way to learn to be a good leader is to make sure you’re following the right crowd. Then you can step up and be a good leader, listen to them, and invite people to activities,” says Brad Smidt, 17, of the First Ward, Coeur d’Alene Stake.

Kiyana Dickson, 18, of the Cheney First Ward, Spokane West Stake, remembers a successful activity in her stake where this principle was illustrated. “One of the best activities we had was a summer social when a lot of inactive and nonmember friends came because other people invited them to have fun with us. Now I talk to those kids all the time, and they smile more often. They go to activities and know how much fun they are.”

Learning to Follow

These teens also know that part of leadership is being a good follower. Michael Hardy, 15, of the Post Falls Fourth Ward, Coeur d’Alene Stake, says, “Followers behind a leader are like links in a chain. If a follower isn’t helping someone else up, then the chain will fall apart and the leadership will not be effective.” And that type of leading includes looking to examples ahead of you.

“To lead by example is to continue to grow, to find good role models. If you’re not willing to follow, then you’re not going to be very humble, and you will miss out on a ton of good ideas that you could get from your counselors and others,” says Alexandra Jensen, 18, of the Second Ward, Coeur d’Alene Stake.

Another way of following is doing what you are asked. Kilie Ellison, 15, of the Post Falls First Ward, Coeur d’Alene Stake says, “When you’re asked by leaders to do something, even if you don’t want to, do it anyway with a good attitude.” Taylor Woodbury, 15, of the Quail Run Ward, Moscow Idaho Stake, points out that “if we do what’s asked, then everything will run smoother, and it helps the Spirit to be there.”

“It’s important to be a good follower, because Christ has told us to follow Him. He set the example of being a follower by doing what His Heavenly Father asked Him to do. Obviously that’s important if He did it Himself,” says Dallin Squires, 16, of the Sullivan Ward, Spokane Valley Stake. He learned this principle from his teachers quorum adviser, who would ask the young men what they wanted to do, give his input, and then let them take the lead.

Delegating and Listening to Others

When Andrew Pugh, 16, of the Chewelah Ward, Colville Washington Stake, was the freshman class president at his high school, his principal taught him about the importance of delegating to others. He said that if you don’t do anything, no one else will; if you do everything, no one else will; but if you work with people, everyone will work. “As long as you are being a true leader, everyone who wants to help will help,” says Andrew.

Katelyn Ferraro, 16, of the Colville First Ward, Colville Stake, says, “It’s hard to not always get the things done that you were planning, but you can see how pleased others are when you work with them.” Dustin Bonkemeyer, 17, of the Brentwood Ward, Spokane North Stake, adds, “It’s 1,000 times worth it to know that you are helping others to grow, strengthen their testimonies, and draw closer to Christ.”

Another important part of working with others is learning to listen to what they have to say. Allysa Cozzens, 16, of the Post Falls Second Ward, Coeur d’Alene Stake, thinks that Queen Esther is a good example of one who was willing to listen. “At a pivotal point in the story, Queen Esther says, ‘I’ll go, and if I perish, I perish’ [see Esther 4:16]. She was totally willing to do whatever the Lord needed her to do to save her people; she also followed her uncle’s counsel. She was a great leader, but she also knew that you have to be willing to listen to others.”

Growing from Leading

Along with reaching out, working with, and listening to others, young men and young women gain confidence and organizational skills from their callings. Katelyn Ferraro says, “Most of the time I am not assertive, but I have learned how to take charge. I have also learned that each person has a special quality and unique personality to contribute, and I can learn so much from them.”

Like other members throughout the Church, these young men and young women are putting into practice the principles taught in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” That is true leadership.

Young men and young women from the Coeur d’Alene Idaho Stake are learning to take the lead. Below left to right: Alexandra Jensen, Brad Smidt, Emelyn Argo, Caleb Knight, Kilie Ellison, Kade Green, Katie Pringel, Allysa Cozzens, Michael Hardy, Lance Child.

Photography by Sally J. Odekirk, iStock, and Art Explosion