Disclaimer: This blog is a way of expressing my personal opinions thoughts and anecdotes, as well as my personal understanding of the scriptures, and conference addresses. It is not meant as a statement of doctrine, and may not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, or doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
25 June 2014
President Gordon B. Hinckley - Inspiring Innovation
Written for an assignment for Walden University MBA Program, June 22, 2014
In thinking of someone who has inspired innovation, I think constantly of the life of Gordon B. Hinckley. Living to the age of 97, his life was a constant merger of history and global expansion. Holding many offices within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until ultimately leading it as its president and prophet from 1995 – 2008, one can see a constant infusion of understanding a beloved history and incorporating new and expanding ideas to affect a global initiative.
As I look at some of the characteristics that make an innovative leader, and utilizing the self-assessment of what makes a creative and innovative leader, I have identified five that are needed, and Gordon B. Hinckley has exemplified and led by these same characteristics. They are as follows: Discipline, Hope and Optimism, Knowledge, Global Thinking, and Empowerment. These are important principles, and ones that I would also like to implement in my professional career.
The ways in which He exemplifies these characteristics are numerous yet a few examples will suffice to exemplify the ways in which he incorporates these principles in his ministry. In his initial address as the President of the church, he highlighted his overarching theme with these words: “The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Hinckley, 2005, May). This message brings together all five of the characteristics before mentioned. In addition, he teaches and exemplifies all of them individually.
To various congregations, he has continually taught the principle of discipline. In speaking to the youth of the church, especially regarding moral obligations and temptations, he counseled “Discipline yourselves” (Hinckley, 1996 May). To Fathers, husbands, and heads of households, regarding the management of finances and fiscal responsibility, his counsel is again “Discipline yourselves” (Hinckley, 2002, November). In an address to women, he offers counsel to those around them and how they should be treated. In speaking against anger and violence, his counsel is once again specific and directed: “Discipline Yourselves” (Hinckley, 1996 November).
Throughout his ministry, he has persistently taught and lived a life of discipline. Discipline is necessary as a principle of growth. This he knew, and this he taught and constantly sought for those whom he addressed to utilize it as well as a source for growth. He mentions this again in an address to the young women of the church, but the counsel is instructive worldwide. He speaks of discipline again, and the importance of it in making decisions throughout our lives (2001, May).
Hope and Optimism:
This is a primary motivator for innovation and growth, for without it, people can become unmotivated, disinterested, or discouraged. To help individuals become a better individual, which will then strengthen the organization, President Hinckley offers the following counsel: “I have a strong, uplifting sense of optimism concerning this work. I have lived long enough now to have seen the miracle of its growth. Mine has been the favored lot of assisting in its establishment across much of the world. Everywhere it is growing stronger. Everywhere it is touching an increasing number of lives for good” (Hinckley, 1995a, November). This message is infused with hope and optimism. He is inspiring many of a worldwide organization to know that optimism is needed for growth.
The prior message also contains one of the most inspiring aspects of his ministry to me, and how I see growth and innovation of an organization. Throughout his live, he worked for the church, loved the history of church and visiting its members throughout the world. When I think about the struggles that an organization goes through, I think that one of the major ones is that they can focus too much on the past. They don’t see new ideas because the old ones work well enough, or they see new ideas as somehow upsetting the status quo of the organization. This is not so with Gordon B. Hinckley. He sees the history of the church as a keystone of the organization and an absolute necessity; however, he also sees the ability of true growth that can only come from building and knowing that we are also living in that same history. In a particular address, he discussed the history of the church, discussing the primary historical event of any Christian organization as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and continues discussing major events of Christian significance as well as through the specific history of the organization. Rather than resting on the laurels of a successful organization, he continues to inspire growth by mentioning that we must understand our unique place in the history of the organization. He then invites us to move forward “on an continuing path of growth and progress and enlargement, touching for good the lives of people everywhere…” (Hinckley, 1999, November). He closes with another invitation to action “May God bless us with a sense of our place in history and, having been given that sense, with our need to stand tall and walk with resolution in a manner becoming the Saints of the Most High” (Ibid).
From an organizational standpoint, I find this characteristic unique and essential. When an organization can infuse within its members a desire to be a part of the history instead of just constantly drawing from the history itself, it can provide a catalyst for growth and innovation.
Gordon B. Hinckley has been focusing on Global Thinking since at least 1954 when the current president of the church discussed with him the challenges of how to take a church that was primarily based in the continental U.S. for the past 100 years and expand it into the full intent of the message of Jesus Christ who had taught that the Gospel was to be taken to the entire world. There had been missionaries sent to many nations at that point, but establishing congregations, buildings, and temples to every nation is another story. Language barriers, logistics, cultural distinctions, and a number of hurdles would lay in the path of global growth. Early in his Ministry, in 1954, he was asked to find a way to build a temple in Switzerland. This helped establish a love for growth
throughout the world. When his ministry as president started in 1995, there were 47 temples. Ten years later, in an address to discuss the growth of the church in that ten year period, he mentioned that there were 119 with three more under construction (2005, November). There were many other indicators, but that one was significant when one recognizes the significant challenges that come with global growth.
Gordon B. Hinckley has taught me a lot, but one of the most significant things I have learned while studying for my MBA and the need for spiritual principles in a professional environment, is how key the role of a prophet is. A prophet, whether as taught in the Hebrew scriptures, the ministry of Christ and his apostles, or in modern day Christian leadership, is an individual who exemplifies both a follower and a leader. He exemplifies how important it is to understand what is going on in the organization (as it were) of those above him, and then must also express, testify, and witness to those who belong to the organization, and look to him as a leader. There are many examples of women in roles of leadership as well, although time does not permit me to explain the great impact their role can be in this model. Suffice it to say, anyone who is a spiritual leader provides an amazing example of one who both listens to those above, and who can also take that authority and bring it to those below.
Empowerment is one of the biggest principles that I wish to exemplify, and I have been grateful to see spiritual leaders in the new light of empowerment. When it comes to innovation, it is also important to have an empowered executive. Having authority given from one higher, it gives one a sense of ownership, which is principle necessary for the ambidextrous CEO (Tushman, et al, 2011, June).
As mentioned before, these five principles are ones which I have seen emulated and in which I hope to incorporate in my own life. The ways in which I could adapt these into my life can be seen through the creativity skills mentioned in the Innovators DNA (Dyer, et al, 2009).
Associating: This skill, which involves putting together questions that are seemingly unrelated and honing them into a collaborative idea. I feel that I am working well to maintain and magnify this skill. I love to be a lifelong learner, and feel that having this skill is absolutely essential to innovation. This skill would help me in my desire to exemplify global thinking. As discussed by Bordas (2007), when we start to think about global leadership, it is important to see leadership as not solely in the realm of modern, European style leadership, but to use models based on the cultures of other organizations. Specifically, Spirit, Soul, and Salsa, which exemplify Native American, African, and Latin modes of leadership could then be seen as effective leader models. Recognizing new models of leadership can help better associate global thinking
Questioning: If there can be anything closely associated with Knowledge, it is questioning. To better receive the principle of knowledge, there must be good questions. This doesn’t have to mean question everything always, but bringing up the what’s and the why’s and so forth— Questions with real intent. This is closely related to the above principle, but has a specific guide to the questions. Where associating is more related to connecting ideas, problems, and questions through correlating new concepts, Questioning helps move the process of problem-solving along.
Experimenting: In discussing Experimenting, this seems to also relate to adapting a Global Thinking atmosphere. Living overseas can provide a good outlook for a global perspective (P. 6) and I have seen that to be true in the life of President Hinckley as well. He travelled frequently to the far areas of the world, including Asia, Vietnam, Europe, Africa, and many other areas. It is helpful to see a leader not just speaking from ‘the corporate office’ but to be out and about among the people and cultures where expansion hopes to occur. Experimenting also highlights the principle of Hope and Optimism. Through the process of experimenting, failure will inevitably come, yet hope is what encourages us to say “let’s try again”.
Observing: Leaders are not born, they are made. This argument has been going on for quite some time, but I must side with this version. Leaders are made through discipline and observation. As I look at leaders like Gordon B. Hinckley, I see in him a passion for observance. He mentions in one address, discussing the leaders who help shape others, including himself: “To my mind there is something tremendously reassuring in knowing that for the foreseeable future we shall have a President who has been disciplined and schooled, tried and tested, whose fidelity to the work and whose integrity in the cause have been tempered in the forge of service, whose faith has matured, and whose nearness to God has been cultivated over a period of many years” (1983, May). Interestingly, he also mentions in that same address that we do not need the traditional version of innovation all of the time, but rather devotion. Can we not see this in the exercise of a disciplined executive? Observation of key dedicated people, processes, and principles can in its own way produce innovation, but not in the traditional way, but one that is tempered through Discipline.
Networking and Collaboration: Taking another point from the leadership of President Hinckley, he mentions his depth of gratitude in spending time with the General Authorities (Worldwide leadership of the church, or ‘Executive Level’ in organizational terms). He mentions the unity that can come from Collaboration and Networking: “The General Authorities are all individuals, each with his own personality. Each brings to his responsibilities a wide variety of experience and background. When matters come up for discussion in the leading councils of the Church, each is free to express his views. As one observes that interesting process at work, it is fascinating to witness the power of the Holy Spirit influence these men. Initial differences never sharp but nonetheless perceptible soften and meld into an expression of unity. ‘My house is a house of order,’ said the Lord. (See D&C 132:8.) In witnessing this process at work, I experience a constant renewal of faith” (1983, May). I would like to approach this skill more frequently, and as a lifelong learner, can certainly see it as a way to think more globally.
Cultivating New Thinking: Utilizing this skill can broach a number of the desired principles mentioned above. Global thinking may be the primary one that comes to mind, but a disciplined mind must often come from cultivating a new way of thinking. An indecisive individual must certainly adopt this in order to become more empowered, and hope is not easily obtained to those who have lost trust, or been trained in a toxic environment.
Comfort with Change: Discipline may seem to be an unforgiving, defensive mentality, but when seen through the eye of this skill, it recognizes one of the untapped recognitions of discipline. Being able to adapt to new experiences comes from those who can react to them and who have experienced and overcome them previously.
Risk Tolerance: Of the five Creativity elements mentioned at the beginning of the article, the one that involves the most risk and tolerance, as well as both together is Hope and Optimism. There have been many who have been burdened with doubt, fear, distrust, or other negative aspects in their life in which Hope is closer to hopeless and Optimism is downgraded to Apathetic. I have always attempted to have optimism in my life, and have often been told that I am too much so, but I believe that I have experienced a great deal of new experiences through Optimism, in part because it turns a blind eye to risk. I have had jobs doing a number of things that are not in the normal realm of job skills because of this, including welding, being a professional mascot, and various construction jobs that have taught me a lot. Risk is a real principle, but fear can be overcome through power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). This, to me, is the definition of Optimism, and can help avert fear, which is the primary derivative of Risk.
I am grateful for leaders in my life whom I can observe, learn discipline from, and gain optimism from as well. President Gordon B. Hinckley has provided me with not only reasons for being a stronger person, but solutions on how to do so as well.
Bordas, J. (2007). How salsa, soul, and spirit strengthen leadership. Leader To Leader, 2007(46), 35-41.
Dyer, J. H., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. M. (2009). The innovator's DNA. Harvard Business Review, 87(12), 60–67. Retrieved from https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/web/pl/product.seam?c=20331266&i=20331395&cs=246c1fd2ba1c8b324a7d7c2afdf6ffe4
Hinckley, G.B. (1983, May) He slumbers not, nor sleeps. Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1983/05/he-slumbers-not-nor-sleeps?lang=eng
Hinckley, G. B. (1995, May). This is the work of the Master, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/05/this-is-the-work-of-the-master?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (1995a, November). Stay the course – Keep the faith, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/11/stay-the-course-keep-the-faith?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (1995b, November). Of Missions, Temples, and Stewardship, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/11/of-missions-temples-and-stewardship?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (1996, May). Stand true and Faithful, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/05/stand-true-and-faithful?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (1996, November). To the Women of the Church, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/11/women-of-the-church?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (1999, November) At the Summit of the Ages, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/11/at-the-summit-of-the-ages?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (2001, May). How can I become the Women of whom I dream? Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/05/how-can-i-become-the-woman-of-whom-i-dream?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (2002, November). To Men of the Priesthood, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2002/11/to-men-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng
Hinckley, G.B. (2005, November). Opening remarks, Ensign. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/05/opening-remarks?lang=eng
Tushman, M. L., Smith, W. K., & Binns, A. (2011, June). The ambidextrous CEO. Harvard Business Review, 89(6), 74–80. Retrieved from https://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/web/pl/product.seam?c=20331266&i=20331399&cs=8f26b92577ca537be743aaa07b8c41c5