Learning to lead is built into our church, isn’t it? Little kids start giving talks at age three, they plan Family Home Evening lessons, they lead songs, and they hear countless lessons about being a good example among their friends, and being good leaders at school.
And then they grow older. Again they get leadership opportunities in Mutual and in Priesthood callings. They receive mission preparation. They—and we– are told not to follow the masses, but to lead out in righteousness. Finally we’re adults and once again, leadership happens—we’re called to supervise a committee, run a program, or be president of an auxiliary.
Most of us study leadership at school, too. Or at least we read books about what makes a good leader. It certainly leaps from the pages of the scriptures we study. King Benjamin was a prime example. But let me ask you this: Do you know the single best thing a leader does?
I believe great leaders create great leaders. They don’t just point the way, or come up with clever ideas, or run an efficient meeting. They don’t just “set an example.” They actually take those working under them, and turn them into future leaders themselves.
This means they tutor the people they’re serving, and teach them how to fill their shoes, giving them opportunities to try it out. Christ is the ultimate example of not just telling his followers to be like him or to follow him, but sending them out to actively do his work, and put his lessons into action. Will they be perfect, as Christ was? Never. But they will improve and become capable, just as we learn our tasks when given the chance to try our wings.
Think how true this is of parenting, as well. What are we doing, if not raising future parents? When we teach our children life skills, help them solve disputes, show them the value of compromise, and help them develop key character traits they’ll need for successful relationships, we are setting their course for their life’s main work: Raising children of their own.
In church leadership, this means sharing the skills and techniques we’ve found to work. It means taking someone new and uncertain, and helping them pedal that bike on their own. Delegating doesn’t just mean easing the load for the guy in charge—it means following through to make sure everyone’s actually learning and growing into a leader himself.
If you have stewardship over counselors or assistants at this moment, ask yourself what you can do to prepare them for your job. Like teaching someone to drive a car, you have to let them get behind the wheel at some point. I cherish the advice a Stake Relief Society President gave me when I was her First Counselor, and afraid of the unknown when facing a move far away. “If you’re not green, you’re not growing,” she said.
Another time she reminded me that “you can’t fix everything.” There were countless other pieces of wisdom she shared that have helped me on my way. Think how many bits of wisdom you’ve collected, that you could share with others: True conversion makes good Home and Visiting Teachers. Err on the side of compassion. Look for ways to involve the less active in an activity. Act on promptings. Make it about getting to the temple. Follow the handbook.
Even such practical things as how to conduct a funeral, or how to plan a big youth event, can help someone in a future calling. Yes, the handbook covers much of this training, but it doesn’t include every tip you’ve discovered that helps in your particular ward. “Here’s the software I’ve found works best for organizing the Visiting Teaching,” or “Here’s what I always bring along when I’m serving a ward dinner,” or “Here’s the favorite game the Cub Scouts like,” can help someone transition into leadership with fewer snags.
Mentoring someone about how to deal with likely problems, and how to turn to God for help, can make others feel confident and capable in their future callings, thus blessing the whole ward. An excellent leader is a coach whose greatest delight is watching someone become an even better player than he was. Such leaders make this church run beautifully, despite the fact that we’re all volunteers and amateurs at most of our callings. It’s passing along that collected wisdom, and giving people a chance to grow that are the hallmarks of an outstanding leader. Simply put, leaders shape others into leaders themselves.
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Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.