Articles/Essays – Volume 03, No. 2

Learning to Lead | Kent Lloyd, Kendall Price, V. Dallas Merrell, and Ellsworth Johnson, The Church Executive, and Paul H. Dunn, The Ten Most Wanted Men

The Church Executive is a report (also summarized in the Winter 1967 issue of Dialogue) of a seminar (workshop training program) conducted by three weeks, they hoped to see the stake presidents achieve the following: 1. dents in that area. Initially sixteen stake presidents began the program, but according to the report four dropped out and “several others” from time to time were unable to be present for various sessions. 

The seminar planners had a most ambitious set of goals for the participants. In a program starting with a Friday evening and all day Saturday sessions, followed by four other all day Saturday sessions meeting about once every three weeks, they hoped to see the stake presidents achieve the following: “1. Obtain knowledge about administrative behavior and procedures and applications of behavioral science to management problems facing Church executives. 2. Acquire skills in interpersonal relations, creative use of executive time, reading and learning techniques and scientific research. 3. Build better Church and personal relationships with other stake leaders and Latter-day Saint behavioral scientists. 4. Participate in developing and authoring part of a seminar report analyzing administrative problems facing Church executives.” The authors also expected that the seminar would allow the stake presidents to build more effective administrative organizations, profit from more inter-stake cooperation, benefit from discussion between stake and community leaders, and to be stimulated to develop further leadership training of ward and stake officers. 

An important part of this report is a presentation of research data, for the authors say that this program is not going to fall short like so many other training programs that have no evaluation research to determine the effects of the program on the participants. 

In analyzing this report I find that I have a mixture of reactions. On the one hand, I am in agreement with the authors’ feeling that Church leaders could benefit from a wide variety of new concepts, methods, orientations, structures, procedures, personal styles as they have been developed by the behavioral scientists over the past several years. The Church is slow to change, and training methods have been developed for improving personal and organizational performance that could be adapted; much to the benefit of Church leaders. This program is an initial attempt to expose Church leaders, namely stake presidents, to some new ways of thinking and responding to their Church jobs. I think this is a useful and needed activity. On the other hand, I am left with a very uneasy feeling about the adequacy of the design, implementation, and research of this particular program. It is a hodge-podge design, and it is a tribute to the Church leaders if any long-range changes in administrative behavior resulted from the program as outlined here. 

In the five days of the program, the stake presidents were exposed to an almost bewildering array of concepts and experiences. There were sessions on creativity, problem solving, rapid reading, counseling, values and ethics, a form of T group experience, guest lecturers, organization theory, community and politics, a visit to skid row, and group reports. Discussions ranged through such diversified sources as Black Like Me, The Federalist Papers, Frederick Taylor, Chester Barnard, Leadership in Action, Eric Hoffer, Thoreau, and Plato.

All of these certainly represent important orientations, but I find it hard to believe that they could be integrated adequately in such a short time. It seems that the designers of the program wanted to insure that the participants were kept stimulated by a wide variety of new experiences rather than concentrating on a more limited range of concepts and experiences and settling down to the hard discipline of training which really brings some type of behavior change. 

My second criticism of the program has to do with the research which was done to insure that the program was adequately tested as to its impact on the participants. Almost none of the goals of the program were tested in the research. The research should have tested to see if indeed the stake presidents gained more knowledge about administration, acquired more skill in interpersonal behavior, built better relations with other Church leaders, etc. These were the goals of the program and the research should tell us if these goals were met and to what degree they were met. When we read the research we find that the research instruments were the Gordon Interpersonal Values scale, a scale examining one’s View of Man, and the Authoritarian Personality (F) scale, and similar tests. I am hard put to see the relationship of these scales to the goals of the seminar. Thus while the authors claim to have researched their program, I cannot see that they did a valid evaluation study. 

Finally, I have a personal bias against the style of writing of this report. There may be some virtue to such a homely, descriptive style, but I was not enlightened to find out that the participants had Canadian bacon, rolls, and jam for breakfast just as the sun rose over the spire of the L.D.S. Institute building. 

I am pleased that behavioral scientists in the Church are making attempts to create new programs for the training of Church leaders. I see this effort as a step in the right direction and perhaps we can learn much from their experience. But in light of current training theory, their program appears to suffer from the following inadequacies: 1. A lack of real commitment to the program on the part of participants. 2. A lack of clearly defined goals, developed by the participants and staff, that have real relevancy to the work in the back-home situation. 3. Inconsistency of design and focus: the program rambled into too many areas. 4. Too little time. 5. No planning for a follow-up program to see that the initial training was tied into the back-home situation and that the learnings were reinforced in the organization. 

The Ten Most Wanted Men by Paul Dunn of the First Council of Seventy is one of the first attempts to write a readable discussion of principles of leadership along with a form of programmed learning or do-it-yourself improvement of one’s own leadership style. The ten most wanted men really are the ten principles of leadership which the author wishes to emphasize: 1. Spirituality. 2. Ability righteously to influence others. 3. Ability to work effectively with people. 4. Ability to call others to leadership opportunities. 5. Ability to plan, prepare and present. 6. Skill in one’s assignment. 7. Ability to counsel others. 8. Ability to delegate. 9. Ability to follow through. 10. Awareness. Brother Dunn does not tell us why these particular attributes are more important than any number of others, and there is no reference at all to any of the multitude of research reports on leadership behavior in organizations conducted by reputable social scientists. 

The format of the book is unique among Church books. The narrative of the chapter is carried on each right hand page and on the left hand page is a quote or statement of principle or an illustration or proverb, etc., that parallels the narrative. In each chapter is a set of multiple choice questions. You are asked to select from a set of alternatives the way you would handle a given situation. There is a right alternative and if you select this one you can go on to the next point, but if you select the wrong alternative you are asked to do some re-reading of the text material. For example: 

Which of the following illustrates the better procedure in issuing a call to the person selected for the assignment? 

1. It is usually best to give the person a call to a job, and then gradu- ally allow him to learn about his new assignment so he will not become discouraged and overwhelmed. 

2. It is best to give the person a clear understanding of his assignment and obtain a commitment of his feelings and willingness to do the job before finalizing the call. Answer number two is the “right” answer. 

At the end of each chapter are several questions in a self-test on the material covered in the chapter, e.g.: a) Describe the process of selecting a person for a church assignment, b) How should questions be worded in the interview to make them most effective? 

There are some obvious weaknesses in this method of trying to produce leadership behavior. One may select the right answers, but that is a long way from being able actually to behave in appropriate ways. A person may also think his behavior is already consistent with the outlined procedures, butothers may experience him quite differently. How does a Church leader find out how he is really doing? We have very inadequate procedures for getting honest feedback to Church leaders so they can begin a program of improvement from where they really are rather than from where they think they are.

The book is at its best when Brother Dunn draws upon his fine talent for relating an incident or telling a story. I feel more people will be inspired with good feelings from the narrative than ever will honestly try to follow the instruction format and answer the questions. It is not a definitive handbook for leadership training, for it ignores entirely the scientific literature and research findings. It draws upon Church literature and literary sources and is written for popular reader consumption. I am sure that Brother Dunn does not feel that a person can become effective in counseling by reading his chapter on how to counsel others. At best it opens up some new areas the Church leader ought to keen in mind. This volume should he used in connection with some good on-going, in-service training programs with Church leaders as they work in their Church positions. 

The Church Executive. By Kent Lloyd, Kendall Price, V. Dallas Merrell and Ellsworth Johnson. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc. 1967. Paperback. 90 pp., $1.90. 

The Ten Most Wanted Men. By Paul H. Dunn. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc. 1967. 405 pp., $3.00.