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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 19: Leadership

Leadership is a popular and well-debated topic. There are tens of thousands of books on the subject of being a leader, so it will be interesting to see what a prophet’s take is on leadership in the Lord’s Church. Leading the Lord’s way is what this lesson is all about. Let’s look at four major areas of leadership.

A good example

“The power of Christ’s leadership grew from the challenge of His example. His clarion call was, “Come, follow me!”” Jesus used, and still uses love to teach us that we can be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today. If we are going to inspire people to perform well their responsibilities in the Church, we must use love as the motivating factor. The question is how?

We are not all called to be leaders in the Church at the same time, nor in the same positions, but leaders we are, everyone of us. We are leaders in our families, in our schools, our communities, and our neighborhoods. We are leaders by virtue of the examples we need to set for those around us. All of us need to learn the principles of Christlike leadership in order to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to become.

If no one else looks up to you, the youth do. They see your example and the way you treat others, and they base their decisions about life on what they see adults around them doing. Because we are a lay or volunteer ministry we are all examples to others. We all have roles to play in the Lord’s work, whether as just an attending member or as an Apostle. For those outside the Church and those being reactivated in the Church, we are an example of Christian living. How we live our lives and how we treat others does make a difference.

Power of the Spirit

Righteousness creates happiness. All things positive are a result of righteous living. A spiritual leader inspires behavior and living in others that generates happiness and optimism.

The world may have a million and one ways to motivate and teach acceptable behavior, but the Lord relies on love, example, and the Spirit to accomplish this. “Only the wholesome have the capacity to lift and encourage one another to greater service, to greater achievement, to greater strength.”

When it comes to being a leader in the Lord’s Church, is there any quality that is more valuable or useful than that of having the Spirit? Is there anything that cannot be accomplished by someone who walks daily with the Holy Ghost? Is there any problem that cannot be solved by the great Teacher?

Knowledge

There is very little that happens in today’s Church that hasn’t happened at some point in the past. Personal problems may take on different names from generation to generation, but the problems and the solutions are generally the same, because the problems are spiritual in nature.

The handbooks of the Church answer all the common procedural questions. They have been compiled by the leaders of the Church to help new leaders be wise in their decisions and in how they handle the spiritual needs of each member. Any leader who is given access to a handbook should learn that handbook inside and out.

I have never heard of any other organization who has put the effort into standardizing the day-to-day operations like the Church has. This consistency gives all leaders the ability to rely on the wisdom of those who have lived before them to handle the problems of the present. To ignore the handbooks of the Church is to invite spiritual and organizational peril needlessly.

Loyalty

I hope that few of us have ever witnessed the chaos that ensues when a ward withdraws their support for a Bishop. As a lay or volunteer ministry, this support is the lifeblood of the organization. Our loyalty is given freely, and in order to be kept, the leader of any group has to become and then remain worthy of that loyalty.

Sometimes giving a particular leader loyalty is difficult. We may not feel like they deserve our loyalty. They may have failed us or even betrayed us in some way. When I was younger I remember one Bishop that I felt was so out of touch with reality that I told my wife that if I ever died while in that ward, with him as Bishop, I didn’t want him to have anything to do with my funeral. I had real issues with that man. Now I am less foolish, and realize that when I raise my hand to sustain my Church leaders, my personal opinion of the person is not of any consequence. I have made a covenant to sustain my Church leaders, and the Lord will hold me accountable for doing, or not doing so.

Hopefully, when I am in a leadership position I won’t be so out of touch that others are willing to put their own souls at risk just to avoid having to deal with me as their leader. Members of the Lord’s Church are in a unique position in that we covenant to support our leaders, no matter how good or poor their leadership ability. We covenant to support each other in the same way.

We are all at different levels of leadership ability. To lead as Christ did requires not only the Spirit, but some skills that can be taught. Here is a paragraph from the lesson where President Benson talks about how a leader treats others. You may or may not have witnessed this kind of leader in your past. If you have then you are blessed.

A good leader expects loyalty. He in turn gives his loyalty. He backs up those to whom he has given a job. The loyalty extends to matters beyond the call of duty. He is loyal when honors come to those with whom he serves. He takes pride in their successes. He does not overrule unless he first confers with him whose decision he overrules. He does not embarrass an associate before others. He is frank and open with him.

I can see the Savior behaving just this way. Jesus would never shame or humiliate anyone. He would never make their choices feel or look inferior. This is a skill that needs to be developed. It is aided and learned faster by listening to the promptings of the Spirit.

Delegation

An important concept that is made in this lesson is that everything we do in the Church is done through delegation. Everything. Those who hold the priesthood do so under delegated authority. Those who hold keys or rights of administration are delegated those keys for only the duration of their assignment. Even Christ’s work is all delegated to him from our Father.

Learning how to delegate, and learning the power of delegation is critical to our success at learning to be leaders. When a leader delegates responsibilities to others he/she is duplicating their efforts through that delegation. Our Father in Heaven is not physically available to help and bless every child each and every hour of the day. When we were baptized we made covenants with Him that we would be there to do that for Him.

We are the Lord’s hands, and the Lord’s feet. Through delegation we bless each other. The whole work of salvation is done by everyone involved accepting their delegated responsibilities and watching out for each other. But there are tricks to delegating properly.

A wise administrator in the Church today will not try to do the job himself, giving the impression that no one else is quite qualified. And as he delegates, he will give an assurance that he who has been delegated has his full backing.

Delegating is not just another word for micro managing. A good leader is always building the leadership qualities in those they serve. A good leader helps build the confidence in each person to be able to carry out their responsibilities. A good leader loves them and cheers them on, while requiring each person to be answerable for the responsibilities they have accepted to carry out.

There is much more to this lesson than what I have presented here. It would be well worth your time to study the lesson carefully. Leaders in the Church are called to not only get jobs done, but to build those who get those jobs done, and to unite them in love one for another. Leadership done the Lord’s way is more than anything a corporate boss has to deal with. They can worry only about the work needing to be accomplished. In the Lord’s organization we need to worry about the soul that needs to be saved. That comes first. The work comes second. Fortunately, the Lord will move His work forward, despite our personal weaknesses. The work will be done, perhaps not perfectly, but it will get done.

Read more of President Benson's teachings here.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

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