Latter-day Saint Life

Listen: When Leadership in Ward Callings Can Become Unintentionally Controlling or Damaging


Not all members of the Church have extensive leadership experience. In fact, many may feel overwhelmed when they are called into a position of leadership, whether in a ward presidency or a stake presidency.

That's why it's important to be aware of two types of leaders: multipliers and diminishers.

In a Leading Saints podcast, New York Times bestselling author and Latter-day Saint Liz Wiseman shares ways of recognizing and serving with both leadership types while serving in a Church calling.

A multiplier is a leader who inspires others to do their best and get higher levels of performance from their team. Diminishers, on the other hand, tend to do just that: diminish the performance of their team. 

However, not all diminishers mean to be the way they are, especially when it comes to Church callings. 

"I’ve come to see that most of the diminishing that’s happening in our workplaces—in our schools, in our homes, in our wards, in our counsels—is coming not from the tyrannical, narcissistic bully," Wiseman says. "They’re people like me who really value good leadership, who want to be a good parent, who want to be a good auxiliary president, or are currently serving as a seminary teacher, and find that sometimes, it’s with the very best of intentions as a teacher, as a leader, as a parent, that we can end up doing the greatest damage."

These "accidental diminishers" can be more damaging than "tyrannical, narcissistic" diminishers because they only see their good intentions, not how their actions are diminishing others' abilities to serve in their callings, Wiseman says. 

An example of an accidental diminisher is the "idea guy," a leader who shares lots of great ideas but doesn't give anyone else the opportunity to share their ideas. 

Because of this, "People end up holding back," Wiseman says. "It’s one of these silent killers of energy inside of organizations."

Another example of an accidental diminisher is someone who micromanages and inadvertently takes away opportunities for others to serve in their own callings. 

In the podcast, Wiseman shared an example of this through an experience she had where she was working as a visiting teacher coordinator and was reporting to her Relief Society president. While meeting with this Relief Society president, Wiseman found that this leader had already duplicated her work and created assignments, a responsibility of a visiting teaching coordinator. 

"I’m like, 'I need you to stop!'" Wiseman says on the podcast. "She’s like, 'What?' I said, 'Do you want me to make the assignments?' She goes, 'Yes, I do.' I said, 'Then I need you to not make the assignments because if you make the assignments and I’ve already done it, see, I’m just going to toss away this work. What it’s teaching me is to just not step up and do my calling.'"

While Wiseman wasn't angry at her Relief Society president and they worked well together before and after this talk, she says that confrontations, with or without anger, rarely work when serving with an accidental diminisher. 

In fact, she says that coming from a place of trying to understand why a leader is an accidental diminisher instead of judging them does much more to help strengthen a positive relationship and working experience. 

"Sometimes, in a corporate setting, when I’ve been working with some really abject diminishers, sometimes all the empathy that I can muster is the empathy to ask, 'Wow, I wonder who did this to them?'" Wiseman shares. "Sometimes, just imagining what has caused them to be so controlling, so worrying, so dictating, allows me just to build the empathy I need."

Listen to the full podcast below to find other ideas about how to work with different leadership types while serving in a Church calling.

Lead image from Getty Images
Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content