Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sustaining Leaders Includes Helping Them Know When They Are Wrong

First, I think it generally is impossible to "fully" sustain each and every person in their callings and "fully" sustain each leader, especially since there are multiple "leaders" relative to each member. We simply have too many people we agree to sustain and support to do so fully in every case.  Thus, we have to choose how we sustain each person, even if, for some, that means all we do is refrain from actively making it harder for them to do what they have been called to do - which, in some cases, includes biting our tongues. 

I fully sustain my leaders, but I do that in some cases by saying no to some things (since saying yes would put me in a situation where I wouldn't be able to do other important things) and also by expressing disagreement when I feel it is important to do so, especially when I believe they will "fall" or "fail" if they pursue a particular path or program. (See the definitions in yesterday's post.)  In cases where I believed a plan was way out of line (only a very few times in multiple decades), I even have told leaders I wouldn't fight them but I also wouldn't support the plan publicly. I also sustain my leaders sometimes by shutting up and letting them do what they want to do without opposition, when I don't agree with them but I think what they want to do will not be overly damaging in the aggregate.

Sustaining is more complicated than most members understand, I believe
- and I am comfortable using "most members" in that phrasing.

I'll share a non-church issue from a few years ago that illustrates this point:

I didn't live in Utah. I lived in a school district that had a relatively small Mormon population. All of the parents of kids in one school received a voice message saying that the principal was concerned about the dress code and, specifically, how tight the pants were that some kids were wearing to school - "especially the girls". This principal is not Mormon, but he could have been. The principle would have been the same. 

I immediately called the school, the district office and a school board member and expressed my deep concern about that message. I told them that I couldn't think of an appropriate way to "measure" compliance with tightness of pants, and I also was concerned about the legal implications of any attempt to enforce a specific standard - as well as the license it would give to perverts to approach young girls and comment on their bodies in the name of enforcing the dress code. I told them that I was sharing my concerns because I believed in supporting them in their responsibilities - and I believed the focus was dangerous in multiple ways they might not have considered. I met with a couple of people to clarify and provide more input and to talk about ways to accomplish the goal (which I respected) more appropriately, and they thanked me for my input. 

I believe I was "sustaining" them - far more than I would have been if I had turned off my brain and accepted the message without providing any input. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen and amen, brother. I also think an element of sustaining is recognizing a person's right to leadership. That is, if I disagree with a leader, that doesn't necessarily mean I think their leadership is inauthentic, or that someone else should be in charge--I simply have another viewpoint, and occasionally I might even have a more correct viewpoint.

I don't think any of the 12 or FP have counterfeit leadership authority, but that doesn't mean they're perfect or that I have to agree with all they say.