R. Scott Rodin begins with the point that in the Bible, leaders are not appointed but anointed for service. He says, “The selection criterion for leadership was not based on who seemed most fit for the appointment, but on whom God had anointed for the task” (p. 14). This is in contrast to how leaders are selected for organizations, even ministries, today. He places an emphasis on this anointing further stating “With God’s anointing comes what every leader seeks: God’s power and presence” (p. 14). This is woven throughout the book but comes out clearly in the authors later discussion on the leader not owning the position, but being ready to move to another as God wills. If God anoints a leader for a position, then the decision remains with God as to when and where to move that leader again.
The book is wrapped around the leader as steward in four relationships: with Creator God, ourselves, our neighbor and God’s creation. “As God’s people, we are called to reflect the image of our Creator God through whole, redeemed relationships at four levels—with God, with our self, with our neighbor and with creation—bringing glory to God and practicing in each the ongoing work of the faithful steward” (p. 33). This philosophy fits nicely into Webber’s idea of “participating” with God’s purposes for re-creation in “The Divine Embrace”.
One’s relationship with the Creator God is based on the fact “you and I were created in the image of the God we know in Jesus Christ, who has revealed himself to us as the triune God of grace” (p. 30). When the leader accepts and believes this fact it enables him or her to maintain a right relationship with God. The author continues, “When we know with certainty the nature of our Creator God and the image that we bear as his children, we can know with equal certainty the purpose for our existence” (p. 30). This certainty guides the steward leader in whatever position God has anointed him or her for in addition to helping care for his or her neighbor (employees) and creation (even the lawn around the organization’s building).
The author contends “the one calling of the steward leader is joyful obedience” (p. 62) and that “our vocation is a participation in the transforming work God is doing in us, and it is a process of letting that work transform us as leaders, the people we serve and the organizations we lead” (p. 55).
In all four of the above mentioned relationships, the author shows how the steward leader is free to act when he or she remains a steward of each and refuses ownership. This freedom allows the leader to make the difficult decisions as well as freely invest in the lives of the organizations employees (since they are not in competition with the leader), the organization (since the leader is merely a steward of it) and God’s creation (since it is not owned but under the leader’s care).
One of the strengths of this book is the authors experience on both sides of the Steward Leader process. The author readily admits where he had failed in leadership before becoming a steward leader. He also brings in the experience of living and mentoring steward leaders since his own transformation.
Another strength of this book is the abundant use of Scripture, especially at the beginning of the book as he builds the foundation for the steward leader concept. Later in the book, he does not seem to bring in Scripture as much, but does go to it to support significant points. The wise, though limited, use of Scripture keeps him from just “proof-texting” and allows the strength of the support of Scripture to come through better.
I liked this book and the author’s presentation, believing it to be generally well-done so I had a difficult time finding weaknesses, but for the sake of argument, let me share two.
I think that one weakness of the book is the lack of good illustration or practical application of the steward leader concept at work. He does make clear that it is not a book on leadership and is careful not to provide a how-to or step-by-step guide for leadership, and that practical application will be as varied as the leaders, organizations, and will of God. However, I think that good examples of some of his concepts would help in both understanding as well as acceptance of his points.
I found another weakness in the last 2 or 3 chapters of the book. There were at least 3 typographic or typesetting errors. I realize that sometimes minor mistakes get through in a published work, but when you have a book published for academia (published by IVP Academic) you should ensure a publication is error-free as much as possible. Additionally, the author is trying to “sell” the steward leader concept, making the point that the steward leader need not be driven by the outcomes of the organization for success if he or she is focusing on the four relationships appropriately since, he contends, God will bless that leader and the organization with the results that really matter. If this belief is applied to the publication of this book, would not that mean that it should not be burdened by the distractions of errors?
Again, though, I thought this was a good book and a great follow-on to Robert Webber’s, “The Divine Embrace” which I read just before this one.
Biographical Information: “The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities” by R. Scott Rodin was published in 2010 by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove, Illinois. The International Standard Book Number is 978-0-8308-3878-3.