Rob and I have been having an ongoing, fleeting conversation for months about stake presidents (and maybe bishops, but I don’t want to formally include them in this post because I think they get beat up so regularly I want to give them a pass on this. Unless you have a great insight about bishops in which case, I will happily include them.)
We have been thinking about past stake presidents we have known and their leadership styles. We know a few that had hearts of gold, who always gave stirring talks about serving the lost sheep and about being kind. They always seemed to be in demand for temple interviews and private councils because they were so compassionate and understanding people wanted to go confess their sins to them. Everyone always worried about those stake presidents because no one wanted them to get burned out.

The other type of stake presidents we have known are the black and whiters. The kind who were very effective leaders because their meetings followed the handbook, their advice and sermons were cut and dried, “This is the rule. This is how it is done. Do this and all will be well.”

I have never wasted a moment of my time talking to the black and white types about anything beyond the weather. I am not about to try to explain the complexities of my emotions, my fears and problems to someone who deals with heartache by saying, “Read your scriptures, pray about it and have faith. If you have faith, it will be fine.” In my experience, that isn’t enough for my soul. I need reassurance and encouragement from humans, too.

Rob says that it all depends on your personality and where you are in your life span. When he was a young Elders Quorum President, he loved hearing from black and whiters because it made it so much easier to think of people and their problems in concrete “this is right and this is wrong “ terms. Now that we have a few miles of snarled, tangled roads on us, he isn’t so fond of the black and white approach. It doesn’t serve him the way it used to when he thought he could control the outcomes of life by his choices.

Since I have always preferred the heart-felt, touchy- feeley types I am comfortable thinking that is the way Christ would want us to lead in his church.

Rob says there is a place for the black and white types too. Of course there is. There has to be since so many in leadership are black and white types. The thing I long for is to have both in one person. A touchy-feely, emotionally available leader who has the black and white starkness in them too, so when someone foists a silly idea they can flatly say, “ No way, Jose. Not gonna fly.”

Have you ever known a leader who had it all? I haven’t but would love to know they exist. I have the same hope for unicorns, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.