As a missionary, you will have countless opportunities to lead: as a senior companion, as an example to the members in your area, as a district or zone leader. Surely each of you future missionaries are among the noble and great ones the prophet Abraham saw in vision of whom the Lord said, “these I will make my rulers.” Leadership is a quality you will need in order to be successful as a missionary and in life.
President Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, said, “there are many individuals waiting to be touched and loved if we care enough to improve in our” leadership skills. You can begin now to improve your leadership skills, and you will then become a more effective missionary once you reach the mission filed.
Today, I am posting the first of three articles on leadership. I will start by focusing on the greatest example of leadership that we can emulate, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the perfect leader. President Kimball gave a landmark address on leadership in 1983 in his talk called Jesus: The Perfect Leader. In it, he said, “I want to point out a few of the attributes and skills he demonstrated so perfectly. These same skills and qualities are important for us all if we wish to succeed as leaders in any lasting way.”
- Fixed principles: “Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant.” “His was not a long-distance leadership…Jesus said several times, “Come, follow me.” His was a program of “do what I do,” rather than “do what I say.” He walked and worked with those he was to serve.”
- Understanding others: “Jesus was a listening leader. Because he loved others with a perfect love, he listened without being condescending. A great leader listens not only to others, but also to his conscience and to the promptings of God. Jesus was a patient, pleading, loving leader.” “Because Jesus loved his followers, he was able to be candid and forthright with them. He reproved Peter at times because he loved him, and Peter, being a great man, was able to grow from this reproof.”
- Selflessness: The Savior “put himself and his own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty, tirelessly, lovingly, effectively. So many of the problems in the world today spring from selfishness and self-centeredness.” Jesus “taught us that there can be no growth without real freedom. One of the problems with manipulative leadership is that it does not spring from a love of others but from a need to use them. Such leaders focus on their own needs and desires and not on the needs of others.”
- Shared Responsibility: “Jesus was not afraid to make demands of those he led. He had the courage to call Peter and others to leave their fishing nets and to follow him, not after the fishing season or after the next catch, but now! today!…Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important.”
- Eternal Potential: “Jesus let people know that he believed in them and in their possibilities, and thus he was free to help them stretch their souls in fresh achievement. Jesus believed in his followers, not alone for what they were, but for what they had the possibilities to become.”
- Accountability: “A good leader will remember he is accountable to God as well as to those he leads. By demanding accountability of himself, he is in a better position, therefore, to see that others are accountable for their behavior and their performance. People tend to perform at a standard set by their leaders.”
- Wise use of time: “Jesus also taught us how important it is to use our time wisely. This does not mean there can never be any leisure, for there must be time for contemplation and for renewal, but there must be no waste of time. How we manage time matters so very much, and we can be good managers of time without being frantic.”
President Kimball concludes with a plead to learn from the leadership examples in the scriptures:
“The scriptures contain many marvelous case studies of leaders who, unlike Jesus, were not perfect but were still very effective. It would do us all much good if we were to read them and read them often. We forget that the scriptures present us with centuries of experience in leadership, and, even more importantly, the fixed principles upon which real leadership must operate if it is to succeed. The scriptures are the handbook of instructions for the would-be leader.”
“If we would be eminently successful, Jesus is our pattern. All the ennobling, perfect, and beautiful qualities of maturity, of strength, and of courage are found in this one person…we will find it very difficult to be significant leaders unless we recognize the reality of the perfect leader, Jesus Christ, and let him be the light by which we see the way!”