I assume the Jehovah's Witnesses church has structure and organization for its membership.
Who are the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and what is their role? From whom do members receive guidance and counsel?
The head of the Jehovah's Witness Church is known as the Watchtower Society.
Sorry for using Wikipedia as a reference, but apparently the JW website doesn't give out much information on them.
On the official Jehovah's Witnesses website, we can get the following information:
The information about the founder also helps to understand the organizational structure:
Russell founded the Watchtower Society, which is the head of the Jehovah's Witnesses Church.
It is very difficult to get official information about the governing body from sources within the organization, but if you trust Wikipedia as a source, they do have more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governing_Body_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses#Committees (and in this case, Wikipedia does seem to have plenty of footnotes and supporting links.)
Among other detailed information, it lists the current and past governing members, how the members have been selected, etc. As a sample, here's what it's got listed for current members:
Governing Body members
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Q. "Who are the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses church?"
A. The One True Almighty God JEHOVAH through His only begotten Son Jesus Christ who has granted authority to Christ's "faithful and discreet slave" as THE ONLY appointed channel by God during Christ's Heavenly PRESENCE (from the GREEK word "Parousia" which is often mistranslated as "Coming") of the Last Days of this world / system of things to provide the spiritual food and oversight needed to nourish Christ's domestics here on earth (Matt 24:3, 45-47).
The "faithful and discreet slave" are the remaining ones *still alive on earth* *viewed as a collective body / group / whole who have the true God given hope of RULING with Christ in his Heavenly Kingdom.
This collective body and in fact ALL dedicated and baptized members of the unified worldwide Christian Congregation of JEHOVAH'S Witnesses is theocratically governed by a centralized group of faithful, experienced, dedicated and baptized men known as the Governing Body. Consequently, the members of the Governing Body are ALL part of Christ's "faithful and discreet slave".
We who are Jehovah's Witnesses therefore have but only ONE LEADER and that Leader is the one specifically appointed by Jehovah THE Almighty God Himself... Jehovah's beloved only begotten Son Jesus Christ (Matt 23:10).
In short, our Leader is Almighty JEHOVAH God through His appointed only begotten Son Jesus Christ whose leadership we greatly respect and submit to by remaining in OBEDIENCE to those appointed by God through Christ as outlined in the Holy Scriptures to take the lead among us (Heb 13:17).
~ NOTE: I am a dedicated and baptized member of the unified worldwide Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Jehovah´s Witnesses have what they call a Governing Body. A good reference on their beliefs can be found in Chapter 14 of their publication Bearing Witness where they show how they interpret Acts 15 as a being similar governing body in the early Christian assembly.
Biblical Principles of JW Organisational Structure
Organisationally, Jehovah's Witnesses try and stick as closely as possible to their understanding of the first century model. They have congregational groups with male appointed members to take the lead**. All members participate in services and both male and female are considered ordained "ministers" and participate both in public preaching and teaching and congregational activities.
THE FIRST CENTURY MODEL
Was their some kind of central council that governed the first century congregations?
Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to reproduce the organisational structure found in the bible - they claim a "theocratic" system where all members are subject in equal measure to the biblical rules and regulations. What is that model?
Jesus left a group of 12 men "in charge" of the first century congregations. They were not democratically elected. Those 12 in turn, by internal vote, appointed others who in turn appointed men, such as the young man Timothy, as "elders" or individual who would take the lead in seeing that what the 12 men in Jerusalem decided was carried out in each congregation (or "church"). Even the Apostle Paul deferred to the decisions of these men that met in Jerusalem. (see Acts 15).These men were ultimately answerable to God, Jesus, The Word and each other (in that order). They were not above bibiblical law nor were they viewed as the "leaders".
See also the following Youtube videos from the Jehovah´s Witnesses "Faith in Action" series:
I would like to build on the answers already supplied here. There isn't really a FAQ on the JW.org for the governing body. There are however magazine articles with information on both the first century body and the one of today.
In the July 2013 study edition of the watchtower you will find these 2 articles:
A slave in that time and area was a different kind of slave as we perceive it to be today. A slave was sort of like a house manager. They took care of daily tasks that needed done around the home. The governing body is much like that slave. They oversee the dispensing of spiritual food, the preaching work, building of kingdom halls, all the different bible schools, disaster relief, so on.
There isn't really a sense that there are people who are higher than others in the congregation. Really its just equal people with different jobs and responsibilities. If you ever get the chance to meet a governing body member, overseer, elder, ministerial servant I think you will find them to be very humble people.
The foremost activity that the governing body is concerned with is dispensing of spiritual food for both the congregation and literature for field ministry. This is set up just like the 1st century congregation.
I found another article entitled: Loyal to Christ and His Faithful Slave. That article deals with the faithful and discreet slave that Jesus talked about. It also shows what a governing body member is and their responsibilities.
If anyone wants information about us, that you can't find on the website, here is a research tool that has seemingly endless information on whatever you can think of:
It is an archive of every printed book and magazine we have printed from many many years back. It also will search the bible and publications for key words. Very useful in researching.