I remember a time on my mission when my zone leader was about to return home and therefore the mission president would have to call a new zone leader in the area. I was the district leader, and I had promptings I would naturally fill the role as the new zone leader. I punished myself mentally with feelings of disappointment in myself for being so prideful to expect such a calling. I discussed these feelings with another missionary, who was a close friend. I explained to him that I didn’t want to be a missionary who desired such a call, but I wanted to be the missionary who would be the obvious choice because of my faith, diligence, and the example I set to those around me. The mission president bringing someone else into my area to be the leader was a vote of disapproval from the Lord–so I thought.

Transfer calls came and–sure enough–they transferred a different Elder into my zone to be the leader. I was humbled and was taught a valuable lesson I still cherish today.

I’ve heard of many instances where people say they received “promptings” about being called to a leadership position, and then ended up not being called.

Clayton Christensen in his book How Will You Measure Your Life? talks about such an experience:

I was driving to work early one morning when I got a sudden and very strong impression that I was going to receive an important new assignment from my church, which has no professional clergy and asks every member to shoulder important duties. A couple of weeks later I learned that a particular church leader in the area was going to leave. I put two and two together and concluded that this was the opportunity that I received the impression about. 

But that’s not what happened. I learned that another man was asked to serve in this position. I was just crushed–not because I had ever aspired to a hierarchical position, but because I always have aspired to play an important role in strengthening our church. Somehow I felt that if I had been given this role, I would have been in a position to do more good for more people than if I weren’t in the role. 
He goes on to say,
Because of this implicit need for aggregation, we develop a sense of hierarchy: people who preside over more people are more important than people who are leaders of fewer people. A CEO is more important than a general manager of a business unit; that general manager is more important than the director of sale; and so on. 
Now let me explain in religious terms: I realized that God in contrast to us, does not need the tools of statisticians or accountants. So far as I know, He has no organization charts. There is no need to aggregate anything beyond the level of an individual person in order to comprehend completely what is going on among humankind. His only measure of achievement is the individual. 
Somehow, after all of this,  I came to understand that while many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics, such as number of people presided over, number of awards, or dollars accumulated in a bank, and so on, the only metrics that will truly matter in my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen  whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage–a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life.  

This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result.  (How Will You Measure Your Life? p. 202)

When I read this, it resonated with my soul! What I would give to go back to my missionary days and simply serve the individual through the teachings of Jesus Christ with all my heart, might, mind and strength, and not worry about silly missionary leadership positions.

Serving as a bishop is a blessing. To be on an individual level with people and to help them, through the power of Christ’s atonement, to overcome so much. To be the person that gets to sign the check that will pay rent or feed families. To carry a mantle so heavy but so uplifting is an amazing blessing. BUT…no bishop, no stake president, and not even an apostle has special license to do more to help an individual than any person in the Kingdom of God. To have an impact on the lives of others does not require a title.

Being a leader simply means you still have to serve the individual while being distracted by a lot of paperwork and administration. I look forward to the day I can serve as a simple primary teacher or ward missionary and still have the same impact I am having as a bishop.

So the next time the prompting comes that you are on deck for the next leadership position, remind yourself that whether you are calling or not, you can still impact mankind on the same level by your day-to-day service.

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