Two Questions that Determine Your Life as a Leader

By Dr. Scott Rodin    

ChatGPT Image Generator created this image, Leaders Pondering, “Who am I and What do I Want?

In the animated series, ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, Prince Zuko‘s uncle confronts him at the pivotal moment in the movie. His question to the young prince is penetrating, “I’m begging you, Prince Zuko. It’s time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions. Who are you and what do you want?”

Big questions, indeed. I’m convinced that every Christian leader will determine the outcome of their leadership based on how they answer these two questions. Put in more biblical, theological terms, ‘where do you find your identity, and how do you define success?’

In our work at the Center for Steward Leader Studies, we have seen the devastating outcomes when leaders tie their identity to their role, their title and by extension, their accomplishments. As leaders who are followers of Jesus, we want to say that our identity is solely in who we are as a child of God and follower of Jesus. However, our drive for reputation, fear of failure, desire to maintain control, and need to seek approval bears witness to how we have acquiesced and surrendered our identity to the job we have and our success in doing it. We seek to answer ‘who we are’ in terms of what we do.

Our answer to the question, “what do you want“, is shaped by how we define leadership success. Two possible answers to this ‘big question’ confront us daily. We can define our success in terms of productivity or in terms of faithfulness. Defining success as production puts us on the treadmill of pursuing the metrics of continual growth, wider impact, greater income, and larger influence. Put another way we measure success by more people, more dollars, more clients, more staff, more security, and more control. Regardless of whether we are leaders in the for-profit world, nonprofit world, church world, or other field, we are tempted to measure our effectiveness, seek our satisfaction and determine our value as leaders based on our ability to set and achieve some level of production-driven metrics.

The other choice is to see our work as an act of stewardship that commits us to knowing and doing the will of the owner. If God owns everything, including our jobs, our organizations, our businesses, our churches, etc., then what drives us is a passion to be obedient and faithful to what the owner would have us do with what is his.

Faithfulness-driven success is fundamentally different than the production-driven alternative. Faithfulness-driven leaders find their identity solely in Jesus Christ and are set free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and trust God for the outcomes. Production driven leaders tie their identity to their job, to their ability to control outcomes and achieve metrics. They lead from bondage, setting themselves up for burnout, compromise, and failure. At a time when we are witnessing a seemingly endless series of Christian leadership failures, we all need to be taking these two big questions seriously. So, I ask you, my colleagues in Christian leadership, ‘who are you and what do you want?’

Dr. Scott Rodin    

Dr. Rodin is the Founder and Content Expert of the Center for Steward Leader Studies. He also serves as President of Kingdom Life Publishing and Rodin Consulting Inc.

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