Christ-like Leadership: Following in His Ways
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 13, 2013
Assistant to the Commissioner, CES
Last fall, during the height of the political season, my thirteen-year old daughter, Katie, and I were watching the news on TV, and a seemingly endless stream of political ads came on…again. She said, “I will be so glad when these elections are over.” I agreed! Like us, some of you perhaps grew weary of all the campaign ads aired, the posters displayed, the slogans repeated, and the disingenuous promises or accusations made. Notwithstanding the rhetoric, much was said and debated during the elections about the importance of leadership. This topic is not new, but it is important.
There are many different kinds of leaders and a variety of leadership styles. Some people may seem to have natural leadership qualities while others appear to be “leadership challenged.” No matter how you may see yourself along the spectrum of leadership skills, principles of leadership can be learned, and certain qualities and characteristics of leadership can be developed by all of us. We would not be here on this earth, as members of the Church or at this university, if it were otherwise. Doctrinally, those who were noble and great in their pre-mortal state were identified by God to become His rulers and leaders on this earth.[i] Because you are living in the latter-days, you can be assured that you were valiant in your first estate and that you are expected to be a leader in the world now.
One of the finest discourses on leadership ever given was delivered by President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) in 1977. His talk was entitled “Jesus: The Perfect Leader.”[ii] Let me highlight some of the leadership characteristics he mentioned about the Savior. As I do, you can see which of these qualities you already have and make a mental note of those you may wish to continue to work on and develop in yourself.
First, Jesus knew who He was and why He was here. [iii] As He stated so clearly to the Nephites, “Ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name,” [iv] and “I came into the world to do the will of my Father.”[v] He knew he was the Only Begotten of the Father.[vi] We, too, are God’s children. Each week, we have the opportunity to take upon us Christ’s name because of what He did, and we promise to always remember Him. We know that Christ had a unique mission to fulfill on this earth; likewise, each of us has a mission given to us by the Father. Although the specific nature of our missions may be different, at the core both Christ’s mission and ours are fundamentally the same: to do the will of the Father.
Jesus was a good listener. Because He loved others with a perfect love, He listened without being condescending.[vii] He was also patient, loving, and understanding of others. Those who walked and talked with Jesus knew that He always had their best interests at heart. When someone needed reproof, He could condemn the sin without condemning the sinner,[viii] always “showing forth afterwards an increase in love.” [ix]
Jesus was selfless.[x] President Uchtdorf pointed out, “Throughout His life, the Savior must have often felt tired and pressed upon, with scarcely a moment to Himself; yet He always made time for the sick, the sorrowful, and the overlooked.”[xi] His life reflected His own sermon: ‘Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’”[xii]
Jesus knew how to involve others. He gave them important and specific things to do that would lead to their own personal growth and development[xiii] matched with their capacity to accomplish the things which He commanded them.[xiv] He delegated to others those things that they could or needed to do and reserved to himself those things that He, as the Son of God, needed to do. He then held others accountable for their performance and behavior.[xv] In the Doctrine and Covenants, He stated, “Every man shall be made accountable unto me,”[xvi] “for it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.” [xvii]
Jesus also taught us about the importance of using our time wisely.[xviii] In the movie Man’s Search for Happiness, the narrator states, “Life offers you two precious gifts – one is time; the other, freedom of choice – the freedom to buy with your time what you will.” Time cannot be recycled. Once a moment has past, it is gone, so time should not be wasted.[xix] It is important to note that does not exclude taking time for recreation and renewal. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, it states, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” [xx] We all need time to “sharpen the saw.”[xxi] Remember, wise time management is really wise management of ourselves.[xxii]
Jesus also saw people not for who they were at the moment but who they could become.[xxiii] To Him, Peter was not a fisherman but a powerful apostle; the woman taken in adultery He viewed as a daughter of God; Lazarus was not dead but alive; Enoch, Jeremiah, and Joseph were not young, inexperienced boys but prophets with a purpose and a mission.
Jesus taught us of our great potential.[xxiv] He set the standard and now continues to encourage and lift us to become even as He is.[xxv] None of us will fully embody the perfect example of leadership provided by Jesus, but each of us can make personal efforts towards approaching that great ideal in our own lives as we continue our march through mortality. Every day, we probably have more opportunities to do good and to be good than we actually use. Whatever the size of our circle of influence, if we were to improve our own performance, even just a little our circle would be enlarged.[xxvi]
As we sing the Primary song “I Am Trying to Be like Jesus,”[xxvii] we should recognize that we have the responsibility in our individual lives to “follow in His ways”: to learn from Him, to love like Him, to be led by Him, and ultimately to lead like Him.
Surely, leadership is needed in every corner of the world now more than ever – in politics, in communities, in businesses, in the Church, and in the home. As you have had the rich opportunity to attend this university, you have all heard about the importance of learning, leading, and building. Now, as you leave this great institution, may you continue to apply those principles you have learned wherever you may go; may we all become more like the Perfect Leader and be a positive influence in the lives of those the Lord places in our path, wherever that path may lead throughout our individual lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our consummate leader, amen.
[i] Abraham 3:22-23
[ii] Spencer W. Kimball, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, August 1979
[iv] 3 Nephi 27:5
[v] 3 Nephi 27:13
[vi] See Moses 5:9; Jacob 4:11; Alma 5:48; John 3:16
[vii] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader"
[ix] D&C 121:43
[x] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader"
[xi] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lift Where You Stand,” Ensign, October 2008
[xii] Matthew 20:27
[xiii] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader"
[xiv] See 1 Nephi 3:7; 1 Nephi 5:8; 1 Nephi 17:3; D&C 5:34; D&C 38:40
[xv] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader"
[xvi] D&C 42:32
[xvii] D&C 72:3
[xx] The Family: A Proclamation to the World (emphasis added)
[xxi] Covey, S. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
[xxii] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader."
[xxiii] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader"
[xxv] See 3 Nephi 27:27
[xxvi] See Kimball, "Jesus, the Perfect Leader."
[xxvii] Children’s Songbook, p. 78