Published by IVP on March 30, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Leadership
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2021 Outcomes Conference - Book of the Year Richard Stearns is a leader who has been tested as a CEO in both secular companies and also as the head of one of the world's largest Christian ministries. After stints as CEO of Parker Brothers and then Lenox, Stearns accepted the invitation to leave his corporate career to become the president of World Vision US, where he became the longest serving president in their seventy-year history. During his tenure there he implemented corporate best practices, lowering overheads while tripling revenues. His leadership in calling the American church to respond to some of the greatest crises of our time, notably the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and the global refugee crisis, challenged Christians to embrace a bold vision for compassion, mercy, and justice. In Lead Like It Matters to God, Stearns shares the leadership principles he has learned over the course of his remarkable career. As a leader who has navigated both secular and sacred spaces, Stearns claims that the values Christian leaders embrace in their workplaces are actually more important than the results they achieve--that God is more concerned about a leader's character than a leader's success. With wisdom, wit, and biblical teaching, Stearns shares captivating stories of his life journey and unpacks seventeen crucial values that can transform leaders and their organizations. When leaders embody values such as integrity, courage, excellence, forgiveness, humility, surrender, balance, generosity, perseverance, love, and encouragement, they not only improve their witness for Christ, they also shape institutions, influence culture, improve team performance, and create healthy workplaces where people can flourish. Through this book, Stearns will inspire a new generation of Christian leaders to boldly take their values into their workplaces to tangibly demonstrate the character of Christ, the love of Christ, and the truth of Christ as they live out their faith in full view of others.
Richard Sterns has been a leader for a long time. He’s been the president of Parker Brothers (the board game company). He’s been the CEO of Lenox (a company that makes fine china). But he’s probably best-known for his twenty-year leadership of World Vision, an international Christian relief charity. Sterns takes the lessons and stories from a lifetime of leadership, distills them into seventeen different values, and encourages readers to focus on values over success.
Lead Like It Matters to God doesn’t break new ground in leadership literature, but Sterns’ captivating storytelling and willingness to be authentic makes for a compelling story. Some leaders, when they get to Sterns’ level, can basically go on autopilot and farm it out. How many leadership books or how-to books from big-name leaders come across as pure marketing? Or sound ghostwritten? Or are intended to hype themselves rather than their message? Sterns writes from his own life, inviting readers into the highlights and struggles of his own leadership. He isn’t afraid to recount his failures. He’s humble in his successes. He acknowledges that his path has been privileged and may not be representative of all people.
Rather than rely on his expertise or his experience or his celebrity (all of which Sterns has, by the way), Sterns focuses on his own story, what he’s learned from reflecting on his time in leadership, and how that might be applied to other leadership contexts in general. Lead Like It Matters to God challenges some of the notions of corporate leadership and advocates for an approach that treats those under the leader as valued colleagues and friends.
The key point to the entire book is that leadership is more about creating a culture than about being successful. It’s more about the people you work with than what you actually accomplish. Top-down leadership has gotten results. Micro-managing and authoritarian leadership styles can get stuff done. But it treats human beings, made in the image of God, as mere cogs in a consumeristic machine. Stearns reverses this philosophy, flattens the hierarchical structure, and calls leaders to lead by example with integrity, courage, excellence, humility, and a number of other qualities.
What I appreciated most about this book was just simply its insight and encouragement. Again, nothing groundbreaking. Christians already know to be generous and have integrity, to be willing to forgive and to do their best. Stearns’ application to the realm of leadership shouldn’t be a huge jump for people, but it often is because we tend to leave our faith at church or maybe at home, and may not consider how it plays out in the corporate world. Stearns is clear that Christians do not have to compromise their faith to be in the marketplace and that, indeed, not compromising makes the marketplace even better.
Lead Like It Matters to God is encouragement from one who’s been there. It’s the lessons you know, but put in a context you may not have seen. It’s a reminder to live as consistent, integrated individuals across our lives and that who we are and how we do what we do is more important than just what we do.