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Being a Leader: It’s Not What You Think

The world has a lot to say on what it means to be a leader — here are four attributes of great leaders you may not have expected


What do you think of when you hear the word “leader”? Maybe you think of the CEO of a large company or the captain of an army. In a BYU-Pathway Worldwide devotional , President Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught what it means to be a true leader. Here are four attributes of a disciple leader he shared that might surprise you.

1. Leaders embrace differences

Personal opinions, perspectives, and beliefs are a part of living. President Oaks taught that true disciple leaders do more than just tolerate these differences — they embrace them! Leaders work with, respect, and rely on those with different opinions to help them broaden their perspective.

The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints work together to receive revelation to guide the Church and its members. These men and women come from different countries, backgrounds, and generations. Some might think having such a diverse group would make leading difficult; but in reality, the diverse perspectives help them make unified decisions guided by the Lord.

The Twelve Apostles
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles celebrates differences.

2. Leaders find joy in creating

Joy can come from creating temporal things like artwork or a garden, but President Oaks taught that disciple leaders find true joy in creating things that last. He said, “The joy we were created for is enduring. We may properly say it is eternal.” 1
Dallin H. Oaks, “Leadership” (BYU-Pathway Worldwide devotional, Feb. 08, 2022),
Heavenly Father created the earth and all the beautiful things inside it for one purpose — to help us reach our highest potential.

God is always trying to build and create the best people. So when you act as a disciple leader and create opportunities for people to grow, you are helping God with His work. At work, you can create by being respectful and kind or by giving your best effort on a project. At home, you can create by treasuring and strengthening your family and building a home where the Spirit is welcome. Doing so will help you find lasting joy.

Joseph Smith constantly sought learning.

3. Leaders are always learning

Quoting President Brigham Young, President Oaks said, “All our educational pursuits are in the service of God, … that we may increase in knowledge, wisdom, understanding in the power of faith and in the wisdom of God.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith was only 23-years-old when he was called by God to organize the restored Church. He had a 3rd-grade education and could barely write a well-worded letter, but he went on to restore Christ's ancient Church that has over 16 million members today. During his short life, he worked hard to learn how to read, write, and speak persuasively. Joseph’s life demonstrates that you can be a leader regardless of your level of education, but continually learning will greatly improve your ability to help those around you.

4. Leaders don’t need an organization to thrive

Becoming a leader is not the result of the position you hold or your level of seniority within an organization, company, community program, or church group. In fact, you don’t need an organization to become a leader at all — you can start right now!

Consider, for example, the difference between a manager versus a leader. Managers focus on maintaining order, control, or procedure. They ensure the people within an organization work well together. But take away the organization, and the manager will no longer exist. Leaders, however, are focused on helping others become the best they can be. Leaders are not focused on the results of an organization; they are focused on helping the people inside the organization. So if you take away the organization, the leader will find new ways to serve others.

As you seek the Lord's will while embracing different perspectives, creating, and continually learning, you will become a disciple leader. And to those people, President Oaks said, “I bless you to hear the promptings of His Spirit to guide you as righteous leaders to make and teach the decisions that establish us on the covenant path that leads to our destiny as children of God.”

students laughing after class
Creating friendships and family connections brings eternal joy.