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“I Teach Them Correct Principles and They Govern Themselves”: The Leadership Genius of the Mormon Prophet Abstract

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In an age characterized by “strong-man” or “leader-centered” leadership styles, Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, set himself apart by leadership behaviors that centered in the conviction that the world of human interaction is governed by interpersonal and moral laws in just the same sense that the physical world is governed by the laws of nature. If one could identify these correct or “fixed principles,” and live in harmony with them, one would thereby gain leadership power and influence. From this belief grew his leadership dictum, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” Specifically, we note Smith's emphasis on integrity as a foundation for leadership interaction, both in truth-telling and in living in harmony with the correct principles one knows. In addition, Smith underscored the importance of unleashing the creative talent of followers by trusting them with sizeable responsibilities (empowerment, in today's terms), in demonstrating love for followers, and in having the courage to think and act independently of mainstream thought and practice. His chief concerns in selecting a leadership team included his focus on character, building an organizational structure which would institutionalize over time the principles he taught, and then motivating followers in pursuit of challenging goals.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1081/PAD-200055202

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Public Administration, Graduate School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA 2: Professor of Business Administration, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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