Rodin, The Steward Leader


R. Scott Rodin, The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations, and Communities. IVP Academic, 2010.

Referenced in: Summary

This is one of the finest books I have read on leadership. From the very first essay, “Becoming a Steward Leader of No Reputation.” After this article, the book continues with theological foundations, spiritual transformation, and an emphasis on the relationship between leadership and one’s neighbor and with God’s creation. I come away impressed with every piece of this book.

A helpful feature is chapter 3, where Rodin compares/contrasts the steward leader model with each of the popular leadership metaphors in recent history. These include the secular models of great man/charismatic leadership/trait-based leadership (Max Weber), transformational vs. transactional leadership (James MacGregor Burns), leadership and the new science (Margaret Wheatley), and servant leadership (Robert Greenleaf). It is a succinct and well-crafted biblical evaluation of leadership models, though not with the comprehensiveness of Banks and Ledbetter, Reviewing Leadership. He offers this brief summation of the differences between these secular models and the servant leader.

From the Great Man theory through the Strategic Leadership and beyond, the steward leader model stands apart in three ways: First, these theories start with acts of leadership deemed to be effective and try to work back to find common traits and characteristics. Second, they relay on the basic goodness of human nature as the basis for the work of leadership. And third, they have a common view that the leader moves people toward the goal of personal happiness with the hope and belief that people. – and leaders – can actually know what makes them happy and can pursue it without harming their neighbor.
The steward leader approach [by contrast] is based on the transformation that takes places in the heart of the leader as a faithful and godly steward, and works from this inner transformation (which is ongoing) to the outward impact when a godly steward is called to lead.

The steward model also takes seriously the Christian doctrine of original sin. The very term steward denotes dependence on the one who is the true owner. And that complete ownership calls for holistic stewardship. Again, our self-understanding is based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is, in the mirror we see a person created for wholeness, a person lost through sin and a person redeemed in Christ. This kingdom view gives us both our absolute dependence on God and our utter and complete freedom in that dependence. Without the atoning work of Jesus Christ we have no basis for hope. Rather than searching some hidden inner goodness, we rely wholly on the supreme goodness of our Creator God and his promise to work in us and through us for our transformation into his image. That is a radically different understanding of human nature, and it distinguishes the steward leader approach from the secular models discussed.

Finally, the steward leader takes seriously our utter incapacity both to know what makes us happy and to be able to pursue that happiness without that negatively impacting our neighbor’s pursuit of the same. Even further, it rejects the notion that our purpose is life is to pursue our own happiness, replacing it with the values of the kingdom of God, which entreat us to purse joyful obedience in our calling as godly and therefore holistic stewards. (82-83)

Rodin also offers a similar conceptual comparison between the steward leader and other faith-based approaches such as Warren Bennis, Max DePree, Peter Drucker, Ted Engstrom (bibliography of these four in an appendix), as well as Bill Hybels, Leonard Sweet, John MacArthur, and Bill Robinson. One of the distinguishing features of the steward leader over many of these is that most of them are “doing-driven.” Rodin is more “being-driven,” refusing to use the term steward leadership, because his focus in not on the performance but the person of leadership. His is a “who” approach and not a “how” approach. It does not start with leadership functions and work back to the person, but vice-verse. Also, one cannot know exactly what the steward leader will create with his/her leadership. Instead, there are only trajectories, indicating “that we can only know the general direction this leadership might take, and we make a guess at its final destination.” (86) He also makes some interesting comparisons between these approaches and steward leading on the ideas of freedom vs. calling, and Jesus being Lord vs. model.

The meat of the book is in the Steward Leader Matrix (93) that spells out Four Levels of Transformation, the difference each produces in the life of the steward leader, in the life of the people he/she leads, and the life of the organization he/she leads.

From the Publisher

Coach. Entrepreneur. Mentor. Executive. Servant. Visionary. Everyone has a different idea of what a leader should be. How can any one person be everything? Scott Rodin brings unity and clarity to this confusing, demanding picture of leadership. He offers a comprehensive model that brings together a biblical understanding of holistic stewardship with the best in leadership studies. Whether in churches, not-for-profit ministries or in business the need for sound leadership is readily apparent.

Drawing on his years of experience in development and fundraising and his extensive theological training, Scott Rodin offers a new paradigm—a transformational approach to leadership that is biblically sound, theologically rich and practically compelling.

About the Author

R. Scott Rodin has been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for twenty-five years. He is the Managing Partner of the Not-for-Profit Practice for OneAccord. Dr. Rodin has held development and leadership posts with firms including World Concern, University Preparatory Academy, the University of Aberdeen and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a Fellow of the Engstrom Institute, and is the past President of the Christian Stewardship Association, a 1,000 member nationwide association of development professionals and ministry leaders. Prior to this he served for five years as President of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he also taught theology and ethics. Dr. Rodin holds a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a nationally-sought speaker and preacher.

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