28 November 2013

Leadership: A Theological Treatise

     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;
     By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
     Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
     That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
     Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.
(Doctrine & Covenants 121:41–45)
I have thought much about what makes a true leader. And this school paper enabled me to delve into it a little more deeply. First off, I must say there are two things I look for in a true leader: 1) he must be about something bigger than himself; and 2) he must put the needs of those he leads before his own. So here are my thoughts on a subject and a chapter of scripture that have been on my mind for months. And qualities I need to work on.

The Lord tells the Prophet Joseph that, “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of” position or power (D&C 121:41). Rather, the Lord reveals ten characteristics by which men (and women) should lead:

A cross-reference to the Topical Guide lists “communication” as a corollary to persuasion. Persuasion, as defined by Hackman & Johnson (2013), “involves changing attitudes and behavior through rational and emotional arguments” (p. 11). As such, persuasion = positive communication rather than compulsion. 

Indeed, the Lord gave the pattern for communication that pleases Him: “He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God” (D&C 52:16). And the Apostle Paul counseled, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6) — grace and truth tempering each other. 

“Words can destroy” (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 6), and this undermines the role of a true leader—to employ “human (symbolic) communication that modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet shared group goals and needs” (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 11). Thus rational, gracious communication best persuades others to a common, worthy goal.

Long-suffering involves “suffering for a long time without complaining; very patient during difficult times” (Merriam Webster). The cross references to this term include forbearance, love, meekness, patience

Perhaps the most telling quality of long-suffering is patience. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2010) explained that patience is “a godly attribute that can heal souls, unlock treasures of knowledge and understanding, and transform ordinary men and women into saints and angels” — hinting at a transformational leadership model (H&J ch. 4)

“As the Lord is patient with us, let us be patient with those we serve,” Pres. Uchtdorf urged. Even a leader is not perfect, and one who lashes out in judgment will find he has few and sullen followers. Forbearance, “the quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry” (Merriam Webster), becomes long-suffering in action.

Gentleness is defined as “mildness of manners or disposition” (Merriam Webster) and need not be enumerated further. Leaders should interact thusly with others.

Merriam Webster defines meekness as “not wanting to fight or argue with people.” The LDS Guide to the Scriptures defines it as “Godfearing, righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.” Without this quality, “other important virtues” cannot be learned—e.g., the other leadership traits in D&C 121 (Soares, 2013). Paul stated, “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing” (2 Tim. 2:24–25). Argument-prone leaders will rarely move their followers without compulsion, something forbidden by the Lord.

Love Unfeigned
Lehi gave the quintessential definition of a true leader in his final counsel to Laman and Lemuel: “I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls” (2 Nephi 2:30). 

A true leader must put the interests of others before his own; it must be about the people as much as it is about the task. People willingly follow those who have their best interests at heart; and a willing group = a won goal and good relationships. 

In 2 Nephi 3:15, the Lord states that people are blessed with gifts and power in order to bring salvation to others. A leader does not use his gifts to show off; he uses them to show up, ready and willing to serve. A true leader is a servant. But he is a servant who serves because he loves, not because he must.

Of course charity is love unfeigned, or genuine love. Thus, a true leader “suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (Moroni 7:45).

Kindness includes courtesy (Merriam Webster). It, in essence, is interacting with others using the already-mentioned qualities. People follow and look up to those who treat them with kindness. But a true leader is not merely about leading others; he is about developing them into their best selves. “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you may help them to become what they are capable of being,” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (quoted in Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 46). Kindness accomplishes this; nothing else motivates people so much.

Pure Knowledge
The Lord speaks of pure knowledge, “which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:42). A leader is also a judge; and he cannot judge what he does not know. He must act on knowledge rather than conjecture, emotion or appearance.

The soul of a leader must be void of hypocrisy (seeking knowledge for personal aggrandizement) and guile (seeking knowledge in order to use against others or forward one’s own agenda) in order to make wise judgment. Thus the Lord prefaces this quality with the others mentioned. 

A leader who is long-suffering, kind, gentle and meek, and who communicates thusly by persuasion and not compulsion, is one whose heart and intent are pure. Thus the Lord may bestow upon him the knowledge he needs to lead wisely, for that leader will use it wisely. James elaborates: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). Pure knowledge is that which is sought, received and used for the benefit of others.

Reproof and Reconciliation
Followers must be loved; but when they make mistakes, they must also be made aware of their error. However, the Lord uses the word “reprove” rather than “chastise” or “criticize.” Reprove means “to criticize or correct (someone) usually in a gentle way” (Merriam Webster). A leader who criticizes or demeans is one who embodies impatience, a trait that “is a symptom of selfishness” (Uchtdorf, 2010). 

President Uchtdorf goes on to characterize such selfishness as that which “leads people to believe that the world revolves around them and that all others are just supporting cast.” Any true leader knows such is not the case. In the words of Ralph Nader, “the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers” (quoted in Hackman & Johnson, 2010, p. 101). Thus, rather than tear people down, a leader corrects in order that the follower may learn and improve — gently if possible, sharply if the situation requires; and only by prompting of the Spirit, not for personal reasons — and then afterward shows “an increase of love” toward he who was criticized “lest he esteem [the leader] to be his enemy” (D&C 121:43). Thus a leader helps his group remain on task, loyal, and developing into leaders themselves.

Treated above. Though we be and do everything, if we have not charity, we are nothing; our works are meaningless, our words empty, our intents hollow (1 Cor. 13). It is at the center of everything true and good.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1992) described it as follows: "Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other."

"Integrity and moral excellence, power and strength (Luke 8:46)" (Guide to the Scriptures, "Virtue"). 

Sister Elaine S. Dalton (2008), a champion for virtue, described it thusly: Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.” 6 It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost"

They all play into each other. And to he who exemplifies them, the following promises are made:
"Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever" (D&C 121:45–46).

People will trust, admire and follow such a person. But really, I think, it's not about the position. It's not about being a leader. It's about being a disciple. It's about serving, when you are asked, who you are asked, to the best of your ability. It's about 1) being about something greater than yourself and 2) putting the needs of those you lead/serve above your own, whether in a leadership position or not. It's not about leading them. It's about helping them draw near to God too, by your example and love.

Indeed, the Savior gave another such pattern, with a similar promise, but much more concisely than I've just described it:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love [or be about] the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself [or put his needs before or equal to your own].
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36–40)

And the way to the promise—salvation and eternal life. Which is why we're here in the first place.

Ashton, M. J. (1992, April 4). The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword. LDS.org. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/the-tongue-can-be-a-sharp-sword?lang=eng
Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: a communication perspective (6th ed.). Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press.
Guide to the Scriptures. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/
Merriam Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved November 27, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com
Soares, U. (October 2013). Be Meek and Lowly of Heart. LDS.org. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/be-meek-and-lowly-of-heart?lang=eng&query=meekness
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. (1981). Salt Lake City, Utah: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Doctrine and Covenants. (2013). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Holy Bible. (2013). Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Uchtdorf, D. F. (October 2010). Continue in Patience. LDS.org. Retrieved November 28, 2013, from http://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/05/continue-in-patience

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