Cover Image: Lead Like It Matters to God

Lead Like It Matters to God

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This is a must read for anyone who wants to get better as a leader. The book is well-written, easy to understand, contains a good balance of spiritual insights and practical applications, and covers a wide variety of relevant topics.
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This book was good read for someone looking to dig and grow in their leadership. It does a great job of applying Biblical passages to each quality it discusses.

It did a good job of telling stories and connecting them to the attributes, though I felt sometimes it could dive a little too deep into the story and less on the application.

Overall I can recommend this to any Christian looking to learn to be a better leader!
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Recently I had the opportunity to read the new book Lead Like It Matters to God: Values-Driven Leadership in a Success-Driven World. In this slim book, Richard Stearns who is best known for his role as president of World Vision, presents "17 values to transform your leadership." While published by InterVarsity Press and definitely from a Christian point of view, the primary audience is anyone who is a leader in secular or Christian organizations. Stearns emphasizes that no matter your place of service, anyone who is a Christ-follower is called to be Christ's ambassador in all that they do.

Although there are 17 values presented, Lead Like It Matters to God has 20 chapters which include an introduction, conclusion, and a chapter providing biographical background information about Stearns. As Stearns combines leadership principles with stories from his own experiences, these chapters are helpful in establishing his credibility. For example, while most recently serving in a Christian non-profit organization, Stearns spent the majority of his career working in huge companies such as Parker Brothers and Lenox. His first hand experiences in these companies provids numerous examples which demonstrate the principles he shares are useful in any leadership setting. Each chapter begins with a scripture, a leadership principle, and a quote which introduces the value presented. These resources alone are worthwhile.

While an excellent book for anyone who is or aspires to be a leader in any setting, Lead like It Matters to God is unabashedly Christian. As such, it would make an excellent choice as a textbook or supplementary reading in a leadership course. A small group would benefit from reading and discussing the book together. With 20 brief chapters, an individual could work through the book devotionally as well. If you are still looking for a graduation present for your favorite high school or college graduate or someone who is embarking on a new career, this book is just what you are looking for.

I received a complementary copy of Lead Like It Matters to God from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley. All views are my own and I am not obligated to leave a positive review.
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I really liked how each chapter is short-ish and can be digested either on its own or as part of a longer reading session. Correlating Bible verses and quotes at the beginning of each are also useful and thought-provoking.

I particularly enjoyed how Stearns first worked in the business world, only going into ministry/non-profit work later in life; a majority of the books I've read lately are from authors who started in ministry and stayed there, or went on to other business endeavors. Both are fine; it was just nice to have something different! I really appreciated the insights on how to live out my faith in a secular environment.

This is very much, first and foremost, a leadership book; it's written by a Christian whose faith plays a huge role in his life (which is fantastic), but, is not a theology book per se. I'll also note there does seem to be some soft critical race theory included.

Only after starting the book did I realize Stearns headed World Vision for a number of years. I'm very familiar with this organization, also based out of the Pacific Northwest, and have interacted with it in multiple ways over the years (including sponsoring a child), and was particularly aware of the organization in the news during early 2014 as it changed (and then reversed said change) a longstanding policy on marriage. This incident was briefly referenced in the book, but not explicitly; I would not have picked up on the reference without having already known about its broader scope.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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First off full disclosure, I have not read Stearns’s other book “The Hole in Our Gospel” I was turned off by the title and read some reviews that pointed out problematic theology. However, I was already half way through this book before I even connected to what else Stearns had written. I stumbled on so questionable statements in this book that made me dig deeper into the author. However, regardless of this Stearns’s is an extremely qualified leader with a track record to back it up. In this book he provides 17 insights from his leadership history and shares a number of insightful examples that show he is not only is he a skilled leader but he exemplifies the humility that he encourages other to embrace. 

Each chapter take a dive into a different leadership skill that usually accompanies a story of Stearns’s learning it the hard way. I found all his examples extremely relevant and it appears there were even some last minute additions that made the book more relevant in this ever changing “pandemic”. Each chapter was extremely well put together with not only relevant examples but also with very practical suggestions that helped individual readers relate the principle of the chapter to their work. My favorite chapters included “Love”, “Vision”, and “Balance”. Then there was the “greedlessness” that hit way too close to home for me and had some hard hitting reminders of how short I am falling from meeting my own goals in some areas.

The book was extremely well written and easy to pick up and read a chapter here or a chapter there, something that is often missing from other leadership books. This was easy to read even on a very busy schedule and it makes sense that this book has an accompanying study guide. It would be a good read for a Christian workplace group/small group. However this leads to my biggest criticism, the scripture references felt tacked on as “proof texts”. I am sure that Mr. Stearns may have discovered and learned some of these principles from the Bible as well as the character of Jesus but the scriptural support feels largely tacked on. Make no mistake Stearns’s Christianity and dedication to it is clearly something he has put first in his life and there are TONS of valuable information here for Christian leaders but the style makes it feel as if it is a leadership book first. This is not a bad thing, we need more books by Christian’s that fill gaps in Christian knowledge and this book certainly aims to do just that for leadership. 

My only other concern is that there were a few passages that hinted at theological problems. For example one passage hinted that Stearns’s may embrace some aspects of critical theory. This does not mean we should write him off. Again, I think this book contains excellent information and I would highly recommend it to Christian leaders at any level of an organization. However, I don’t think anyone should dive into this work expecting great Biblical insights, I think to do so would greatly diminish the value that actually can be found here. 

Overall, I found this book encouraging to me as a leader and some of the chapters hit at just the right time as I dealt with some of the same issues mentioned. I think most readers will find this to be true. I have read a LOT of leadership books and very few have been as well put together as Stearns’s. Bit size nuggets of wisdom that comes from someone who has often had to learn the hard way. What more could someone ask for? My time spent with Lead Like it Matters to God was time well spent and it personally helped me turn some negative workplace happenings into positives for the future. In addition, Stearns offers significant wisdom as to how someone’s Christianity should show up in their work. 

Overall, I have shared my biggest concerns in this review and in the grand scheme of things the problems are relatively minor when looking at this book as a whole. It certainly offers a lot of value in its relatively short 242 pages. With that said I would still recommend readers use caution before diving deeper theologically with Stearns. But in the end the big question is;

Is it a good book from a Christian perspective on leadership? Absolutely!
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1. Leadership Changes the World
2. The Plans I Have for You (autobiography)
3. Surrender
4. Sacrifice
5. Trust
6. Excellence
7. Love
8. Humility
9. Integrity
10. Vision
22. Courage
12. Generosity
13. Forgiveness
14. Self-Awareness
15. Balance
16. Humor
17. Encouragement
18. Perseverance
19. Listening
20. Taking God to Work

Each chapter begins with a scripture, a leadership principle, and a quote or two. Notes with sources are included at the end of the book.
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The writing style isn't amazing, but Stearns does a good job of connecting ideas and communicating points that are often overlooked but important to doing leadership well: surrender to God is vital. Understanding how work connects to one's identity as a Christian allows people to see that all good work has some value, from selling shaving razors to serving the poor. Success is secondary to living out godly values. 
A solid leadership book that describes an overlooked way of life.
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As the CEO of WorldVision, Richard Stearns is well qualified to share about leadership and values. While sharing skepticism about the need for another Stearns convincingly argues and illustrates his premise:

"Values driven leadership is more about character than capabilities, more about being than doing, more about pleasing God than pleasing people. So, I have organized this book around seventeen values and leadership qualities that I believe are essential for a Christian leader to embody...." (p. 6)

After a couple introductory chapters, each of these 17 values is expanded on in an chapter of its own, supported by Scripture and illustrated with stories from my own experience. Stearns suggests, "you can read them sequentially or you can jump to one of the values that seems most relevant to you right now." (p. 6)

Like Stearns, I too was skeptical about another leadership book, and the direction of WorldVision as a "Christian organization" has ebbed and flowed over recent decades. However, the illustrations shared are honest, humorous, and compelling!

I would recommend this book for an introductory leadership class, either at the post-secondary level or even secondary students. Of course, all leaders could benefit from Stearns' insightful reflections on character.
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