The Loneliness of Leadership

The Loneliness of Leadership - Gordon B. Hinckley
Photo from LeadingLDS.org

GORDON B. HINCKLEY of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

History is revisited as we read an address given at BYU on November 4, 1969.  As I reflect on the words of our prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, I can hear his voice in my head, and his words, although spoken about 50 years ago, echo inside me as I can relate to the things he communicated, and still apply to all of us today.

I suppose many of you watched President Nixon last night as I did, when he spoke to the nation and was listened to by the world. I watched him with great interest. I observed him as he wiped the perspiration from his face, realizing, I am sure, the importance of what he was saying. As I looked at him, I thought of the terrible loneliness of leadership.

True, he has advisors. He has at his beck and call any number of men with whom he can consult; but when all the chips are down, he has to face the world alone, as it were. His advisors do not face the cannon fire of public opinion. That comes to the leader.

As I sensed the loneliness of leadership while watching him, there came to my mind some great words from William Shakespeare: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” (King Henry IV, Part II, act 3, scene 1, line 31).

There is a loneliness in all aspects of leadership. I think we feel it somewhat in this university. BYU is being discussed across the nation today because of some of our practices and some of our policies and some of our procedures, but I would like to offer the thought that no institution and no man ever lived at peace with itself or with himself in a spirit of compromise. We have to stand for the policy that we have adopted. We may wonder in our hearts, but we have to stand on that position set for us by him who leads us, our prophet.

It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the Atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind. As I think of that, I reflect on a statement made by Channing Pollock:

Judas with his thirty pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity.

Read the devotional in its entirety here.

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