Review: The Steward Leader

steward leaderThe author of this book caught my attention in the third paragraph of his first chapter when he wrote:

“Here is the confession: in my roles as a leader I have been mostly wrong.”

He goes on to describe the trajectory of his career and reputation and observes that the point wasn’t a trajectory of greater responsibility and reputation. It was rather in following Jesus in becoming a leader of no reputation. Fundamentally, he contends that what matters most is transformed character through one’s encounter with God, where one’s greatest desire is to be accounted trustworthy by God, to be a steward of God’s trust. Then one is ready to lead.

The first part of this book lays the foundations for this steward leadership. He traces the work of the Triune God from creation of humankind as stewards of creation to the fall where we act as owners through our redemption and the call to godly stewardship.

He goes on to talk about the freedom of the steward leader, and this, I found, was one of the highlights of the book. Very simply, it is the freedom of trusting and obeying God in our relationship with Him, ourselves, others and the creation. An old chorus says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Leaders who live like this are happy and free.

Finally he contrasts being a steward leader, which is about character with other theories of leadership including transactional, transformational and servant leadership. He urges docking the “ship” in leadership that focuses on practices and focusing on transformed character that results in trajectories of leading.

The second part of this book elaborates what transformation looks like in a leader’s relationship with God, oneself, others, and the material world. He then describes “trajectories” of leadership rooted in these transformations. He looks at both the implications for the people and the organizations one leads. Such leaders prioritize relationship with God and living out of one’s call and gifting and empower people and organizations to do the same.

One other critical idea that recurs through this book is that steward leaders are not owners and that the great temptation leaders face is to forget this. Owners are self-reliant and shallow, they consider a vision theirs and resist change, they use others, and exploit the creation.

This book proposes a new model of leading. The idea of a steward is comprehensive, addressing the leader in relation to God, self, others, and the world. The author also gives a number of examples from his own leadership journey to illustrate what it means to be a steward leader. At the same time the book seemed a bit conceptual. Perhaps the next step that would be helpful in developing this model would be to highlight organizations led by steward leaders and committed to developing them. I hope Rodin will consider a follow up book along these lines.

R. Scott Rodin proposes a new approach to thinking about leaders rooted in an old biblical idea–the steward. His focus on character rather than charisma, and on transformation rather than technique, is a welcome departure from bulk of leadership books.


One thought on “Review: The Steward Leader

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: March 2015 « Bob on Books

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