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The Upside-Down Ladder of Leadership: Learning from "The Greatest among You"

Today’s inspiration is drawn from “The Greatest among You” by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, given during April 2017.

The Paradox of True Leadership

In our culture, we often view leadership as a position of authority or prominence, where the leader holds the most power and has the loudest voice. But in the eyes of faith, the true definition of leadership takes a profound and humble turn. In the wisdom-packed talk, “The Greatest among You,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf challenges these worldly views by highlighting that in God’s kingdom, the greatest leaders are the ones who serve others selflessly, without expectation of reward or recognition.

“He That is Greatest Among You Shall Be Your Servant”

This perspective is deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26-27). The Sons of Thunder, James and John, were among those who needed to learn this lesson. Their desire for honored positions showed a misunderstanding of the nature of heavenly glory. In response, Jesus taught them and the other disciples that leadership in the divine sense is not about holding authority but about ministering to others.

Embracing Humility: A Lesson from the Madrid Spain Temple

Uchtdorf relates a personal story about the dedication of the Madrid Spain Temple, where despite his role in the project, he wasn’t invited to the ceremony. After some introspection, he realized that the event wasn’t about him or his feelings of entitlement; it was about dedicating a holy place for worship. When we serve, our focus should be on the sacred purpose of our actions, not on our own standing or how others perceive us.

Why We Shouldn't "Inhale" Praise

The talk also warns against “inhaling” the praise and adoration we might receive from others for our service. If we serve with the aim of receiving praise, then we have received our reward, and it’s an earthly one. The essence of true service lies in actions that are not just seen by others but are also felt by the heart.

Serving from Any Position: The Universal Value of Humble Contributions in God's Kingdom

The lesson from Brother Myron Richins doesn’t just stand as a cute anecdote but serves as a testament to the essence of godly leadership: the understanding that no task is too small, and no calling lesser than another. When Brother Richins was released from his calling as a stake president—a position of significant authority and responsibility in the Church—he took on what might be considered by many as a more menial task: cleaning up after horses in a parade. Instead of feeling like it was a step down, Brother Richins embraced the opportunity with the same energy and devotion that he had given to his previous calling. This demonstrates that in the divine realm, it’s not the title or status attached to service that matters, but the heart and soul put into it.

The important takeaway here is that godly leadership can emanate from any position, whether you are a stake president or a humble volunteer. What makes your contribution invaluable is your willingness to serve with joy, regardless of the task’s size or prominence. Each role, no matter how insignificant it might seem in worldly terms, holds universal value in God’s Kingdom.

The Call to Serve Humbly: The Spiritual and Emotional Rewards of Selfless Leadership

The ladder of heavenly leadership doesn’t just require acts of service; it requires those acts to be performed with humility and love. How can you climb this unusual ladder? It starts with an inward transformation. Once you begin to value those around you, your external actions start to align with your internal values. The Apostle Paul sums this up perfectly when he wrote, “In humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

In practicing selfless leadership, the spiritual rewards far outweigh any worldly recognition. You start to experience an innate joy and fulfillment that can only be achieved through humble service. You also contribute to creating a community built on love, mutual respect, and understanding. The greatest reward, however, is the inner peace and the closeness to the Divine that comes from fulfilling one of the most fundamental teachings of various faiths: to love and serve your neighbor.

Remember, true leadership, in a divine sense, transcends positions and titles. When you serve humbly, you’re not only elevating those around you but also paving the way for your spiritual journey, drawing you closer to your true self and higher power.

That Echoes Eternity: Redefining Greatness Through Service and Humble Leadership

So, we return to our original question: how can you serve those around you today? The call to act is not just a daily reminder but an eternal principle that has implications far beyond this lifetime. Let’s work to redefine greatness in our communities, not by the number of followers we have, not by our positions or titles, but by the depth of our service and the extent of our humility.

s you ponder ways to serve, consider small acts that can have significant impacts, from lending an empathetic ear to offering a helping hand. These actions might seem simple, but their ripples can touch lives and hearts in ways we can’t even begin to measure. Each step you take on this upside-down ladder of leadership takes you higher in moral and spiritual elevation, enriching not just your own life but also the world around you.

In challenging the world’s definition of greatness, we contribute to a more compassionate, loving society and set the stage for enduring, divine leadership. As President Uchtdorf states, let’s turn the world’s definition of greatness on its head and strive to be humble leaders, guided by love, service, and humility.
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