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Two Questions for Every Leader By R. Scott Rodin

The Questions and the Answers that Define Your Life

In the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, Prince Zuko‘s uncle confronts him at a pivotal moment in the movie. His questions to the young prince are 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?’

Devastating Outcomes

In our work at the Center for Steward Leader Studies, we have seen devastating outcomes when leaders tie their identity to their role, title, and, by extension, 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 followers 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 our job and success. We seek to answer ‘who we are’ regarding what we do.

Defining Success

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 terms of faithfulness. Defining success as production puts us on the treadmill of pursuing the metrics of continual growth, broader impact, more significant income, and larger influence. Put another way, we measure success by more people, dollars, clients, staff, security, and control. Whether we are leaders in the for-profit world, nonprofit world, church world, or another 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

The other choice is to see our work as an act of stewardship that commits us to knowing and doing the owner’s will. 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 from 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 and ability to control outcomes and achieve metrics. They lead from bondage, setting themselves up for burnout, compromise, and failure.

What’s Your Answer?

At a time when we are witnessing a seemingly endless series of Christian leadership failures, we all need to take these two big questions seriously. So, I ask you, my colleagues in Christian leadership, ‘Who are you, and what do you want?’


R. Scott Rodin is the Senior Consultant/Chief Strategy Officer for The Focus Group. Over the past thirty-eight years, Scott Rodin has helped hundreds of organizations improve their effectiveness in leadership, fund development, strategic planning, and board development. His books and articles have been translated into over twenty languages, and he has taught and consulted with ministries across five continents. He also serves as a Senior Fellow of the Association of Biblical Higher Education and as board chair for ChinaSource.

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