There is a natural reflex that leaders feel when an issues arises.

I call it the “gotta-do-something” reflex.

This dynamic happens when something breaks in the organization or in the lives of those in the organization.

Someone is preaching “false doctrine”.

The leader has gotta do something!

Someone is offended by another person in the ward.

The leader has gotta do something!

Someone is living a life of sin and breaking covenants.

The leader has gotta do something!

Now, I admit, there are certain situations where the leader is responsible for taking action and easing pain or creating safety for others.

However, I think leadership action should be intentional and not reflexive.

Many times, there are situations where the leader (let’s use the example of a bishop because it is more general) inserts himself in a situation, and it simply makes it worse or puts him in the middle of a situation that is not his concern.

Let me share with you a situation I heard arise in a ward recently.

Family A and Family B live in the same ward and have been close friends for many years.

Unfortunately, Husband A and Wife B are caught up in an emotional affair that is found out by Wife A and Husband B.

Drama and chaos ensue.

After some time, both Couple A and Couple B decide to take the steps necessary to reconcile their marriages.

However, the hurt feelings between these former ward friends result in Husband B having a passionate conversation with the bishop.

Husband B tells the bishop that he needs to demand Husband A attend a different ward or else his family is moving.

This is when the “gotta-do-something” reflex ignites in the bishop.

The bishop considers the situation which involves family Sunday worship, other ward relationship dynamics, and long-term testimony impact, not to mention the youth involved whose spiritual progress could be disrupted.

The leader has gotta do something, right?

This leadership reflex suddenly convinces the bishop to make this problem his problem to fix even though none of his personal decisions led to the creation of the problem.

Because the bishop feels the pressure from those involved, his gotta-do-something reflex takes over.

He inserts himself in the middle of it all as some type of spiritual mediator trying to fix issues that aren’t completely spiritual.

There are probably many opinions of how a leader should approach this situation, and I’d love to hear from you on how you might handle it.

Just for fun, let me share my perspective on how a leader could resist this gotta-do-something reflex.

When a problem arises in the personal lives of individuals in the ward (especially a problem that the leader had no part in creating), often that problem is brought to the leader, and those in the middle of the problem want him to leverage his authority to fix or reconcile the problem.

A simple question to be asked to those involved in the issue is, “What do you need?”

This doesn’t mean the leader will automatically fulfill the requested need, but it helps clarify the request.

In the A/B Family issue, the request from Husband B is to demand Husband A attend a different ward.

The bishop could simply communicate that it isn’t his job or responsibility to tell families in his ward boundary to attend a different ward; however, if Husband B needs his family to attend a different ward, the bishop could help facilitate that for Family B.

This has shifted from “gotta-do-something” to “what is the need and how can I help within healthy boundaries?”

The expressed need is “Family B needs to attend a ward that doesn’t include Husband A,” and the boundary the bishop is setting is “I don’t force anyone not to attend the ward.”

I admit my approach may be flawed and is shared without the influence of specific priesthood keys that would be valuable in approaching these situations.

However, as leaders get prodded into the middle of difficult problems they didn’t create, we must avoid the gotta-do-something reflex.


Kurt Francom
Executive Director
Leading Saints

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