What Every Mormon Missionary Should Learn About True Leadership

It is very likely that you will be called into a “leadership position” while you are on your mission or throughout your life. But regardless of when or where you are called to serve, “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position” says Brian Tracy.  If you’re a leader before you’re called into a leadership position, then it’s likely that you’ll hold that position in a spirit of meekness and humility. You cannot let positions make you feel powerful. You don’t derive power from position. You derive power from honor and service. King Benjamin was powerful because the people honored him. The people honored him because he served them.

Only the honorable are capable of becoming great leaders. Many people have held positions, and have long since been forgotten. But those that have honorably served others have become immortal in the lives of others. That is power.

greg trimble

“He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader” said Aristotle. Does that seem contradictory?

One of the primary attributes of good leaders is that they consistently choose the right people to follow. During the war in heaven, many great leaders, including yourself, chose to follow Jehovah. That choice qualifies you to become a good leader on earth.  Every good leader that you choose to follow brings you closer to becoming the leader that you were born to become.

The way you handle yourself in sticky situations will determine the effectiveness of your leadership throughout your mission and throughout your life. Good leaders are always focused on solutions. They don’t dwell on the past. They only learn from it. They don’t keep a laundry list of others past deeds. They’re quick to forget the sins and weaknesses of others and are always looking toward the future.

Make others feel important for no reason and expecting nothing in return. Compliment strangers regardless of who they are and do it for no other reason than because you want to make others smile. “Praise is like the sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it. And yet, while most of us are only too ready to apply to others the cold wind of criticism, we are somehow reluctant to give our fellow man the warm sunshine of praise. Give someone a good reputation and just watch them live up to it!”1

Eliminate criticism from your system. But you say, “I’m a  leader…it’s my job to criticize.” You can effectively change peoples lives without criticizing them. They will witness your success and without you saying a word, they’ll be imitating you in no time. Make appreciation and praise part of your everyday routine. Look for ways and reasons to praise other people.When you don’t feel like smiling…smile anyway. The gospel is supposed to make people happy and great leaders normally have infectious smiles.

The best leaders take the blame when there is blame to take, and deflect the praise when it comes their way.  They understand that “you can accomplish anything…as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”2

During passover, the population triples in Jerusalem and people bring their animals. There’s trash and droppings all over the ground where you’d walk. People wore sandals as they walked the streets. Patrons feet would become extremely dirty and unsanitary. Christ condescends to wash the feces off of his apostles feet as an example of what a great leader does. This was one of the last things Christ did before He left for Gethsemane, which speaks to the importance of the principle He was trying to teach.

Giants in the kingdom aren’t threatened by the strong or intelligent individuals that surround them. They never try to suppress the talent of their peers. In fact, they exhibit the exact opposite behavior. These leaders find talent that is buried deep inside others and strive to draw it out to shine a light on it. “Lift others up” is their motto. They never seek to keep others down.   

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1. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends And Influence People, pg 223

2. Harry S. Truman, Peter Drucker, “The Effective Executive”


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  • You’re absolutely right. We don’t become leaders because of the positions that we hold, but by developing our influence. And… we develop our influence by serving others.

  • Ben Arnold

    I’m reminded constantly that there are leaders all around us, in disguise. When I was in the military it was easy to distinguish who the leaders were because they wore their rank on their sleeve. But even then I began to notice that sometimes the rank didn’t accurately match the leadership ability of that person. In the real world a leader is often found serving. The ones who stand up and shout the loudest are usually not the true leaders among us. It’s the person sweeping the sidewalk, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, raising children, farming, fixing roofs, and so on. One of my greatest teachers wasn’t a teacher. He was a retired plumber!