Why Are So Many Mormons Good Leaders?
Mormonism—an informal term some people use to describe the beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is garnering some attention for its members who exhibit leadership skills in politics, business, and other aspects of everyday life. Many have speculated, often incorrectly, as to why that might be.
Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) have extensive training in leadership, which gives many of them skills which they may choose to also help them in the business world. Some Mormons become very comfortable speaking in front of groups, an essential skill for leaders of all kinds. For many, this skill begins in childhood, as they have the opportunity to give brief “sermons,” which they call “talks,” in their Sunday school classes. They also have the opportunity, from a young age, to offer public prayers or to recite scripture verses in a yearly children’s program. Their talks last about two and a half minutes and, at the younger ages, usually involve a parent or leader helping them.
Leadership Skills at a Young Age
From the age of twelve, Mormons may be asked to give brief sermons in the regular Sunday worship service. Mormons have a lay church, which means everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done. The bishop, who is a lay pastor who serves an average of 5 years and who is not paid, does not give the weekly sermon. Instead, two to four members of the congregation are asked to speak each week. Teenagers speak for about five minutes and adults for ten to twenty minutes, depending on the number of speakers. Even the children speak once a year when they do their special program, although for many, it is only a sentence or two.
Mormons permit young people to teach even adults in this manner because they put a lot of faith in their teenagers and children. They set high expectations for them and when the children see they are respected and considered knowledgeable and valuable, they generally try to live up to those expectations.
Teenagers help to plan their own youth program under the supervision of adults who practice shadow leadership. This means that instead of telling the teens what to do, leaders ideally train them in basic leadership skills. In planning meetings, they might ask, “What special problems are you seeing in your class right now that you’d like to work on?” Through a series of questions, they can help the youth identify needs and then plan activities that meet those needs—planning with a purpose, rather than just planning to have fun. Eventually, the teens learn how to do those things without reminders.
These opportunities prepare them to be church leaders as adults, as well. As a lay church, there is much work to be done and nearly everyone has at least one calling, which is the term Mormons use for volunteer jobs. These jobs change often, giving the members an unusual range of skills. They are sometimes taken out of their comfort zones, which means they grow in confidence and skill. They learn to plan and lead, to solve problems, and to evaluate results. A portion of the official Church website offers online leadership training.
Mormon Leadership Skills Translate to Business Skills
All of this training, while intended to build competence in serving God, is equally applicable in the business world. Many Mormon teenagers take the skills they learn at church and use them at school and later in their employment. They have poise and confidence most other teens lack simply because they’ve been given opportunities and responsibilities to lead at young ages.
Of course, Mormonism also encourages students to get an education and then to continue learning, both spiritually and temporally, all their lives. They are taught to be self-reliant wherever possible. Many, with so much experience in leadership, a good education, and a desire to have more control over their lives, start their own businesses. Mormons are also encouraged to be involved in their communities and to do their part to serve their country.
Mormons believe that this life is a gift from God and that He expects us to use it to become everything we can become. While spirituality is central to the Mormon lifestyle, Mormons know they need to survive in a temporal world, so they try to do it by working at something they find satisfying, by serving others, and by challenging themselves to be everything God knows they can be.
Read more about Mormon leadership.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.