Lead Like It Matters to God: Values-Driven Leadership in a Success-Driven World, By Richard Stearns
Lead Like It Matters to God
  • Length: 264 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: March 30, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4730
  • ISBN: 9780830847303

*affiliate partner

Outcomes Conference Book of the Year
Christian Book Award Finalist

Richard Stearns is a leader who has been tested as a CEO in both secular companies and also as the head of one of the world’s largest Christian ministries. After stints as CEO of Parker Brothers and then Lenox, Stearns accepted the invitation to leave his corporate career to become the president of World Vision US, where he became the longest serving president in their seventy-year history. During his tenure there he implemented corporate best practices, lowering overheads while tripling revenues. His leadership in calling the American church to respond to some of the greatest crises of our time, notably the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and the global refugee crisis, challenged Christians to embrace a bold vision for compassion, mercy, and justice.

In Lead Like It Matters to God, Stearns shares the leadership principles he has learned over the course of his remarkable career. As a leader who has navigated both secular and sacred spaces, Stearns claims that the values Christian leaders embrace in their workplaces are actually more important than the results they achieve—that God is more concerned about a leader's character than a leader's success. With wisdom, wit, and biblical teaching, Stearns shares captivating stories of his life journey and unpacks seventeen crucial values that can transform leaders and their organizations. When leaders embody values such as integrity, courage, excellence, forgiveness, humility, surrender, balance, generosity, perseverance, love, and encouragement, they not only improve their witness for Christ, they also shape institutions, influence culture, improve team performance, and create healthy workplaces where people can flourish.

Through this book, Stearns will inspire a new generation of Christian leaders to boldly take their values into their workplaces to tangibly demonstrate the character of Christ, the love of Christ, and the truth of Christ as they live out their faith in full view of others.

"This book is a rare treat—a fireside chat with a battle-tested Christian CEO who has led big organizations in both the secular and ministry worlds. Rich Stearns offers a master's-level course on leadership with faith as his north star. Embrace these seventeen leadership values and you will become a better leader and a better ambassador for Christ."

John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

"Steady. Reliable. Focused. These are the words I use to describe Richard Stearns. I've known him for two decades, traveled with him to distant lands, and partnered with him in multiple projects. He leads with impeccable integrity and skill. I'm thrilled to read this book and gladly commend Rich to you as the perfect person to write it."

Max Lucado, pastor and author

"Rich Stearns has written a book that we have all needed as leaders for so long, one that lifts the importance of values over success by human standards. Living faithfully is much harder than producing results that make us look smarter than we really are. This book will challenge your character and remind you of what really matters to God."

David Anderson, author of Gracism: The Art of Inclusion, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church

"Richard Stearns is a leader not only to admire because of his successes but also to learn from because of his honest self-reflection about his failures. Interwoven as these two necessarily are, Stearns lays them out before us here with humility, candor, grief, faith, and hope. Those are among the leadership characteristics I most want to reflect, and to do so in ways that honor God and those I try to lead. Thank you, Rich Stearns, for leading like it matters to God. It shows."

Mark Labberton, president, Fuller Theological Seminary

"My friend Rich Stearns is a leader who is humble and unafraid, a rare combination. He knows that justice and mercy are not incompatible and that we all are called to speak both truth and love. I have had the privilege of watching Rich lead with the courage and humility needed for difficult times like this."

Bill Haslam, former governor of Tennessee

"In a time of crisis when the very values that make up 'Christian' leadership seem to be woefully rare, Rich Stearns is one of the voices that I most need to speak into my own life and leadership. A former corporate CEO and a twenty-year president of World Vision, Stearns is a tested and trusted leader who offers us a way back to a vision of leadership that is worthy of wholehearted commitment. Like reading the personal journal of a courageously candid mentor, Rich Stearns opens his heart and shares his own experience in the struggle of becoming—and remaining—a leader who demonstrates the values of what matters most to God. I will return to this book again and again."

Tod Bolsinger, Fuller Seminary, author of Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory

"Sit down and read Rich Stearns. It's like a privileged conversation with a wise mentor who really cares about you. Aristotle wrote that why is the most important question. In a world full of how books, Rich answers why Christian leadership matters."

Leith Anderson, president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals, author of Leadership That Works

"It has often been said that leadership is an action, not a position. In a society that often values others based on achievements and successes, we learn from Scripture that world-changing, upside-down, kingdom-minded leadership centers on cultivating who we are rather than what we can do. Rich's own unique experiences and stories demonstrate that having integrity and achieving success are not mutually exclusive but rather mutually reinforcing. Having vulnerability and humility in leadership indeed allows us to better reflect Christ, who calls us to pour out our lives in service to others. As we are facing racial injustice, gender inequality, and extreme global poverty, among other issues, this book challenges us to believe that surrendering our ideas of success to God can lead to not only inner transformation but world-changing impact. The church needs to rise up to meet these challenges by pointing to a better way rooted in truthfulness and love, and this book is the right tool at the right time to help us on that journey."

Jenny Yang, vice president for advocacy and policy, World Relief

"In Lead Like It Matters to God you will find brilliant answers. Rich doesn't provide five new methods for brilliant hiring or seven ways to personal motivation. Instead, his brilliant book is about something almost forgotten in our seminaries, leadership seminars, and even in our pulpits—Christian virtues. The only way to be genuinely happy in our leadership lives is to give ourselves to something significant. And what is more significant to God than to develop the Christian virtues he's given us? It is possible to do ministry for God in a way that isn't honoring to God. Rich has written a path for making sure we get the right things—right!"

Ray Johnston, lead senior pastor, Bayside Church

"What struck me right between the eyes was that there are hundreds of 'how-to' books on leadership, but I can't think of one 'why-to' book, which to me is the essence of true leadership. Rich has written the book that needed to be written, and there is no one more qualified to write it. Rich has led and lived a compelling 'why-to' life. It is a privilege to endorse and recommend this book in the highest form possible. Thanks, Rich, you exemplify true leadership."

Ron Blue, author of Master Your Money

"Some leadership characteristics like surrender, courage, and perseverance you can only teach if you have lived them out for many years, or your teaching will ring hollow. Having watched Rich lead for over twenty years, I not only admire his integrity, but I have witnessed him surrendering his own agenda, digging down deep for courage in very tough times, and persevering to make the kind of leveraged eternal impact that we all desire. I have been learning from reading this book, and I expect I will each time I reference it."

Lloyd Reeb, founding partner of the Halftime Institute

"The book Lead Like it Matters to God is a much-needed text for leaders and aspiring leaders who see themselves as kingdom ambassadors in the marketplace. Richard Stearns eloquently describes how a believer's ultimate mission is to know, love, and serve God in whatever environment or position one finds him- or herself. In a climate of political and social unrest, riddled with division and scandal, Stearns gracefully highlights seventeen foundational principles or 'critical values' necessary for developing today's 'change agents' who are called to bring healing and restoration to the places where they live and work. This book is both timely and needed for such a time as this."

John K. Jenkins Sr., senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Maryland

"Lead Like It Matters to God is a leadership book like no other. A class all by itself. The theme throughout the book of a leader's character is paramount. Character is the core of leadership coupled with the values Jesus taught, clothed in excellence and love. The line 'Surrender is the place where your leadership begins' captures the depth of the level of leadership discussed. This entire book weaves Rich Stearns's experiences from many years of leading in the secular business world and the Christian global nonprofit world with lessons learned, principles to practice, questions to ponder, and examples of both success and failure. A book for these times!!! A book for now and future leaders who will join God in changing the world for good."

Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church

"There are, it has been said, two sets of virtues or values. The résumé virtues relate to a job well done, and the rewards are more external—recognition, success, popularity, achievement, material benefits. The eulogy virtues signify a life well lived, and the rewards are more internal—a sense of purpose fulfilled, of benefits to others, of spiritual well-being. Rich Stearns in his remarkable career has experienced and valued both sets, which is why this honest and personal reflection on leadership is so important. In an age that values what is seen and temporal, Rich Stearns points us to what is unseen and eternal."

Leighton Ford, Leighton Ford Ministries

"For years, I have hoped that Rich Stearns would write this very book. The sad predicament is not simply that the Christian world often outdoes the ambient culture in defining success as winning, displaying, and image maintenance. The end result is exhaustion and cynicism. In this enlivening book, Rich Stearns shows a different way: the way of integrity. Very few people have ever served in such wide-ranging positions of experience as Rich Stearns. Here he guides us through the lessons he has learned along the way. This book will equip and inspire you as you lead, in whatever place God has put you, by enabling you to listen to a battle-tested leader who has earned our trust."

Russell Moore, president, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

"Whether you are a first-time leader or an experienced leader, the challenge of leadership is ever present and ubiquitous. Wherever you are on the leadership spectrum, the key is leading yourself first. Lead Like It Matters to God very quickly recalibrates an understanding of leadership that does not focus on what we produce as leaders but on who we are. Rich Stearns's years of leadership experience and acumen help leaders at all levels calibrate their foundation of leadership that is values-based and internal, before moving to the external. Engaging with this book will not just help you increase your leadership influence—it will help you become the leader God created you to be!"

Tom DeVries, CEO of the Global Leadership Network

"In Lead Like It Matters to God, Rich Stearns is extremely transparent as he shares his lifelong experiences. It is impossible not to be significantly influenced by his stories. The lessons he learned on his quest to be a values-driven leader in a success-driven world are highly relatable and inspiring. I appreciate how each chapter carries a refreshing dose of humility. His desire to know, love, and serve God reminds us that a life surrendered to Christ is missional in every way and in every assignment. This book is a gift to all leaders, wherever you are in your transformational journey."

Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance

"By now, many should be familiar with the typical leadership book strategy. Big principles. Impressive research. Tales of successful endeavors. And . . . be like the guru. This book is different . . . and refreshing. I'm not suggesting that Richard Stearns isn't accomplished, but behind big titles he shares from a deep place of vulnerability and humility. This, in itself, is so countercultural. Additionally, Lead Like It Matters to God isn't just about leadership but also about discipleship. In other words, while it will clearly speak to leaders, it will also resonate with anyone who desires to grow as a follower of Christ. In a culture that often obsesses about success at all costs, Richard Stearns has given both the church and the larger culture an important and timely resource."

Eugene Cho, president, Bread for the World, author of Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian's Guide to Engaging Politics

"We reap the benefits of Rich Stearns's decades of rich, high-level leadership experience in these pages. His insights and reflection on his own career framed through the lens of Scripture challenge readers to flip the script of what the world considers success and to reframe leadership uniquely as a follower of Christ."

Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission

"Few leaders have walked among both the corridors of power and the most vulnerable with the integrity and humility of Rich Stearns. For far too long, many leadership tomes and conferences have focused on values that have nothing to do with the character of Jesus. In Lead Like It Matters to God, Rich reminds us that God's metrics for leading have more to do with faithfulness and fruitfulness than the twin temptations of success and pride. Servant-leaders from churches to government will be challenged and inspired. It's an idea whose time has come!"

Gabriel Salguero, pastor, The Gathering Place, and president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition

"I was a raving fan of Rich Stearns while he was president of World Vision US. Now I know why, after reading his book Lead Like It Matters to God. Through the ups and downs of his career, Rich trusted God and as a result the good Lord guided him along the way. In studying the seventeen values and leadership qualities he believes are essential for Christian leaders to embody, I learned, as Rich did, that even though I fall short of perfection, if I trust God, I still can learn to lead like it matters to him. If you read this book, I know that will happen to you too. Then watch the careers and lives of the people around you soar."

Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager and Servant Leadership in Action

"As a seminary professor, I consider the raising up of leaders for the church to be one of the most significant and important tasks. The search, however, for helpful texts among a deluge of useless texts can be overwhelming. I am grateful to Rich Stearns for providing us with this important book. In writing about values-centered leadership, Rich offers a compelling vision of what Christ-centered, kingdom-valued leadership can look like. I have observed and experienced firsthand the humble, thoughtful, and effective leadership of Rich Stearns. It is an honor to give my highest endorsement for a leadership book that presents important content offered from the narrative of a leader with great integrity."

Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary

"Richard Stearns has written a remarkably helpful book that lays out the key biblical values of leadership faithfulness. As I read Rich's book, I couldn't help but think of Proverbs 16:31, 'Gray hair is a glorious crown; it is found in the ways of righteousness.' While Rich may actually have gray hair, Lead Like It Matters to God is a treasure trove of wisdom from a seasoned leader who has sought to model biblical fidelity in the businesses and organizations he has led. Enjoy learning leadership not from a theoretician but a practitioner."

Ed Stetzer, Wheaton College

"As a leadership consultant and leadership executive coach to corporations and churches, success is often measured by exponential growth. It is refreshing to read a leadership book that keeps God's kingdom in focus and is grounded in biblical principles. Richard Stearns has written a practical resource for godly people who want to lead by their values."

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, author of A Sojourner's Truth and Mentor for Life

"This leadership book is unusual because the author uses some of his own setbacks and failures to teach essential leadership virtues. Many leadership authors only share the glossy side of winning at leadership. Yet we often learn most from our mistakes. In Lead Like It Matters to God, Rich Stearns turns the world's version of leadership upside down to posit that who you are is more important that what you achieve. The mixture of powerful story illustrations from Stearns's real-world victories and defeats animate the book, drawing you in so quickly that you can't put it down. You will be instructed with timeless wisdom from Scripture and this experienced leader's life. If you are a person who leads teams in the corporate or nonprofit world, a new graduate or new employee, a pastor or professor, this book is for you. And if you've faced hard calls, been weary or afraid, this book will be God's voice of encouragement to you today."

Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

"Grounded in Scripture and real-world experiences, Rich Stearns helps us reflect on who we're becoming and exhorts us toward values-driven leadership. A much-needed book in this season when we're longing for leaders with character, and a must-read for any Christian leader!"

Tom Lin, president/CEO of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

Read an Excerpt


1. Leadership Changes the World: Joining the Revolution
2. The Plans I Have For You: A Bit of Autobiography
3. Surrender: Not My Will but Thy Will
4. Sacrifice: Career Suicide
5. Trust: He's Got This
6. Excellence: It's How You Play the Game
7. Love: What's Love Got to Do With It?
8. Humility: The Executive Toilet
9. Integrity: Who You Are When No One Is Watching
10. Vision: Seeing a Better Tomorrow
11. Courage: Do Not Be Afraid
12. Generosity (Greedlessness): The Toxicity of Money
13. Forgiveness: I'm Sorry
14. Self-Awareness: Know Thyself
15. Balance: All Work and No Play
16. Humor: If We Don't Laugh, We'll Cry
17. Encouragement: Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant
18. Perseverance: Hang in There
19. Listening: Bees Do It
20. Taking God to Work



You May Also Like

Richard Stearns

Richard Stearns is president emeritus of World Vision US, where he served as president for twenty years, traveling more than three million miles as an advocate for the world's poor. Before leading the Christian relief and development organization, he was a corporate CEO at both Parker Brothers and Lenox. His bestselling book The Hole in Our Gospel was named the 2010 Christian Book of the Year.

Among the honors Stearns received for his humanitarian service are five honorary doctoral degrees, the Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award from InterAction, and the Christian Leadership Alliance's highest honor. Rich and his wife, Reneé, have five adult children and six grandchildren, and live in Bellevue, Washington.