“Leaders to Managers Revisited”

Professor Hugh Nibley


One of Hugh Nibley’s many memorable contributions was his essay on “Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift.”

Dr. John Gee reflects on it here.



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  • http://plainandpreciousthing.blogspot.com/ Rozann

    I was there in the audience when Bro. Nibley delivered this address. I have never forgotten it! and searched for a long time before finding a copy of it. This should be required reading for our elected officials, as well as church leaders.

  • Elizabeth Watkins

    Interesting insights from Nibley and Gee. I see the need for both leaders and managers in the Church: leaders, certainly, because we are all designed to become such someday; managers as well, as John points out, because we still need to remain within certain bounds while our abilities and perspective are limited by mortality. Moses was a spectacular leader, but he had to take management lessons from his father-in-law to get anywhere with managing all of Israel’s petty grievances. Pahoran may have been more of a manager, but he certainly understood leadership and the need for it.

    The ideal, it seems, would be both qualities in the same being, as with Brigham Young (Nibley’s prime example) or President Hinckley. Nibley finds few such people alive today, but life is meant to prepare us to be both good leaders and good managers. If we become perfect, even as God (by his own command), we must be both, as was Jesus Christ. That may well take longer than a lifetime for most of us.

    What we don’t want in the Church–or in the world, for that matter–is pirates: would-be leaders who angle shamelessly for wealth, position, and a following with no regard for integrity, charity, wisdom, or the other bounds the Lord has set. Although Nibley has cast these people as consummate, ambitious managers, I don’t entirely agree; I see greed as their motivation and management merely as their method.

    However, we also don’t want slothful servants: close-minded managers who frantically try to maintain the status quo by squelching anyone who might possibly disturb it, burying their own creative talents and those of everyone around them. In their case, it seems to me, not even a good motivation can atone for the negative consequences to Church and people. More often, though, the motivation is greed again: the desire to retain a favored position and the goodwill of their superiors and admirers at the expense of any who could become rivals.

    Unfortunately, the Lord’s commitment to man’s freedom of choice, added to the tendencies of the natural man, means that we have both pirates and slothful servants in the world and in the Church, along with an abundance of greed. Hence the continuing need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    How does one opt out of becoming a god (celestial manager or boss), or being managed by gods or God or led by God or gods or Jesus or any other deity which rumor has it includes Joseph Smith among other notables? Can one say ‘no thank you’? How can one just say ‘no’ to such a prospect without being damned for all eternity to a boiling and scalding perpetual wasteland of fire and smoke? This should be headline stuff printed somewhere on the front pages of all religious books and entitled the “Opt Out Page” (fill in the box with a Number 2 pencil only).

  • LBRussell

    Yeah, ol’ Hellfire and Brimstone Nibley.

  • Louis Midgley


    It is easy to opt out. Just make golf or gold or gardening your God and hence worship at your own secular religious site.

    • Lucy Mcgee

      Obviously we have a different God in mind. The God I think of would not punish a majority of the 100+ billion people who have ever lived, many in Asia and most poor and most never having heard any Christian Gospel message. As I understand your particular religion, these people, who through no fault of their own, were born at the wrong time and in the wrong place and because of this fact, could never, for all eternity, share in your highest kingdom. That to me is beyond absurd and so I think I’ll plant a few extra flowers in my garden this spring, to remind me of those billions of souls who were discriminated against by God simply because of time and geography.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    It’s interesting to read such writing. To know that there are people who claim to understand the eternity after death is mind boggling. One can read your D&C 76 and 132 and realize that not only will the believing faithful rule or manage in the here after, but will exist in an exalted state in some level above all the other souls who have ever lived and who were not born in the correct place and time to be offered such an eternal gift. And P.S., there is no possible way to baptize the large percentage of the 100 billion dead, statistically speaking.

    It’s hard for me to understand that people could believe themselves to be that much better than the billions that have lived before. The percentage of LDS members within the grand scale of humanity is a rounding error. Why would God favor you over the billions who’ve lived and died for many tens of thousands of years?

    • danpeterson

      I get the distinct impression that you’re not even really trying to understand our position on this issue.

      Which means that my time would be better spent elsewhere.