In 2001, I lived in Cypress Hills, NY. During that time, I was a full-time volunteer service missionary in a two year program. As a service missionary, I was given a partner that I worked with all the time. Each missionary partnership was part of a district which was composed of four to eight service missionaries.
The Great Leader
Two to three districts were grouped together to form a zone, and there were 16 zones within the mission. The leader over the whole mission was called the mission president. For my area the mission president was Larry Spackman. He was a very successful businessman from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
There were also leaders amongst the missionaries. The leaders were responsible for either a district or zone of missionaries. The leader’s responsibility was to motivate and encourage the other missionaries. In addition, the leader had to make sure the missionaries were following the standards of missionary conduct.
The standards included several rules each of the missionaries had to follow. The rules covered missionary conduct in every aspect of life. They determined the schedules the missionaries had to follow and appropriate activities missionaries could and should do. Being the leader with such strong rules was not an easy task. An additional challenge was that the missionaries ranged in age from 19 to 28 years old.
Three lessons learned
After being a missionary for only seven months, I was asked to be the district leader over a group of four missionaries. Although this was a small group, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the challenge. I had little experience myself and was asked to lead others who had more experience. After a short time as the new leader, I had the opportunity to speak to the mission president, G. Lawrence Spackman. He gave me some invaluable leadership advice that guided my behavior as a leader. The three leadership principles to follow were:
- Serve and love the people you are asked to lead
- Lead by example
- Follow all the rules
Learning and applying these principles was a turning point for me as a young missionary. By applying the principles, I saw myself grow as a leader. I gained the respect of the other missionaries by setting a good example and following all the rules. They knew that I expected a lot of them, but they also knew I cared and wanted them to be successful. By serving them, they were able to have trust in me as their leader.
In addition to being very helpful as a missionary, the principles have guided my behavior in the business world and have helped me to be a successful person. I have been able to get results as a leader in my career.