In today’s world, we’re used to a definition of leadership that gives privilege, power and prestige. Those of high standings can sometimes convince themselves they are above certain consequences for dubious behavior or try and take the extra advantage, simply because they can. To hold rank over someone is a constant reminder that you have more than them. Recently, there has been one story after another of politicians in the middle of scandal, both in office and in their personal lives.
The Lord would have us lead a different way. His way.
When I first entered the Florida Orlando Mission, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was assured—as I’m sure most new missionaries are—that my trainer was the best of the best. I came to find out that Sister Powell had trained once before and had been an example and leader in our mission. While we served together, she was called to lead all the sisters, giving me opportunities to serve with many sisters I would not have otherwise. Sister Powell was gentle, kind and understanding, and showed me so from my first day.
During our first week together, Sister Powell and I lived with two other Sisters in a neighboring area. This was because our area was new for Sisters and there was not yet an apartment for us to stay in. As the arrangements were completed, we were able to go into a new apartment. Furniture from storage was brought for us to use. We had a queen-sized and a twin-sized, which had been donated from our ward.
“Who’s getting the big bed?” asked an Elder who had been helping with the move.
As my experience in seniority and leadership up to this point had been entirely worldly, the answer seemed obvious. “Sister Powell, of course,” I said as we finished loading up a truck.
The morning had been long and arduous, and we still had the rest of the day to go. I fell asleep during our lunch and woke up to Sister Powell putting her own sheets onto the twin bed. The other was already made up and ready. “But you were supposed to have that one,” I told her.
“I was making it up, thinking how nice it would be to sleep in a big bed,” she said. “Then I realized how selfish that was and how I’m supposed to be serving you.”
She continued to make the other bed, insisting against all argument that she would get better sleep away from the large window by the bed she’d prepared for me.
This was the first of many occasions I found Sister Powell showing what it truly meant to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. She showed her love of Christ by serving “the least of these” (Matt 25:40) and served with all her “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). She taught me that a true leader doesn’t take advantage, but instead finds ways to bear the yoke of those they have stewardship over. They are willing to take responsibility, strive to be humble, and find new ways to be obedient to allow themselves to be close to the spirit.
As my time came to lead others in the mission field, I tried to emulate the example Sister Powell set for me. I strove to put the needs of the Sisters I was called to lead first, and I hope I was the sort of leader that would give up the big bed.