CNLP 424: Rich Stearns on How to Beat Failure in Leadership, the Value of Persistence, and What For-Profits and Non-Profits Can Learn from Each Other

After a quick climb in the corporate world, Rich Stearns served as World Vision’s president for almost 20 years.

He talks about how growing up in a traumatic environment didn’t stop him from going to Cornell and the Wharton School of Business, about twice being fired from the C-Suite and how he bounced back after a deep struggle, and what for-profit and non-profit leaders can learn from each other.

Welcome to Episode 424 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey talks about what church leaders can learn from business leaders.

Guest Links


Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | World Vision

Episode Links

World Vision

The deepest truths about living like Jesus often come from leaders who are suffering, persecuted, and living in a hostile environment.

And through the beatitudes in Matthew 5, we know that people in difficult circumstances like these are often the closest to living like Jesus did.

World Vision invites you to listen to voices of leaders from around the world! Leaders who have used their suffering and persecution to build and strengthen their faith.

Join Danielle Strickland and World Vision for a NEW series called “Right Side Up Soul Care.”

In this FREE web series, Danielle and leaders in the global Church will share how they have learned to practice their faith and feed their soul through difficult circumstances.

The Church is a force for good in the world and World Vision’s heart is for the Bride of Christ to be healthy and mobilized to be the church outside the four walls!

Sign up today at worldvision.org/carey.

CDF Capital

As the church shifts away from lockdowns and uncertainty the questions that lie ahead have not changed.

Now, more than ever, learning from each other is critically important.

CDF Capital’s XP Summit Cohorts provide an exclusive, year-long experience that brings together hand-selected global ministry leaders and your peers in an intimate, small-group setting.

As a member of a cohort, you will:

  • Grow personally and professionally
  • Engage in 3 in-person experiences with a world-class mentor to see his or her ministry firsthand
  • Connect in monthly coaching sessions with a ministry professional who knows you and who can speak into your ministry with accuracy and insight
  • Enjoy conversation and community with your XP peers across the country

Learn more and sign up today by going to cdf.capital/cohorts.

Conversation Links

Lead Like It Matters to God by Richard Stearns

Unfinished by Richard Stearns

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

Good to Great by Jim Collins

CNLP 350: Ryan Hawk on How to Get in the Door with World Class Leaders, Dealing with Rejection, and How to Go from Top Performer to Great Leader

5 Surprising Lessons Church Leaders Can Learn from Business Leaders by Carey Nieuwhof

Get Carey’s Content Straight to Your Inbox

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Insights From Rich

1. Sometimes we learn our greatest lessons in failure

Early on in his career, Rich was fired from two executive positions in a row. As you’d expect, the process was extremely painful, but Rich realized that God was trying to teach him something through those hard times.

God was showing him that success isn’t a goal worth chasing, and that if he’s going to do what he was made to do, he needed to start living for God rather than his own success. Often, God will use painful seasons to teach some of the most important lessons.

2. As a leader, persistence and resilience are key

Sometimes leadership can feel like a wall of closed doors. Whether it’s repeated roadblocks at work or continued rejection while trying to find work, we all hit closed doors on occasion. But what sets great leaders apart is their persistence and resilience in the face of failure and rejection.

If you want to impress those around you, persist through rejection, and bounce right back from failure.

3. Success is a terrible idol for individuals but is a critical goal for organizations

As a leader, you’ve probably felt the temptation to idolize your own personal success. This is a huge trap that can be so detrimental and can leave you feeling empty. Because of this temptation, many leaders become averse to chasing success altogether. But there is a huge difference between chasing personal success and aiming for success as an organization.

As an organization, you need to succeed. Never let yourself say, “We may not be growing, but we’re faithful.”

Quotes from Episode 424

You may be successful, but success should not be your goal. Faithfulness should be your goal. @RichStearns Click To Tweet For a workaholic, Christian ministry is like a fully stocked bar to an alcoholic. @RichStearns Click To Tweet God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful. – Mother Teresa Click To Tweet How you persevere and persist in the face of opposition and difficulty is really a critical leadership quality. @RichStearns Click To Tweet If your life is your work, and your work is your life, you live in a very small world. @RichStearns Click To Tweet Persistence is often rewarded. @RichStearns Click To Tweet You learn about leadership by watching others. @RichStearns Click To Tweet We're marinating in a success-oriented culture in our world. @RichStearns Click To Tweet When someone's failing at their job, they know it. They probably know it before you know it. They're drowning, and they need somebody to get them out of their misery. @RichStearns Click To Tweet There's a big difference between being a good steward and being cheap. Click To Tweet Never confuse frugality with morality. Click To Tweet If you have a really big vision, you will tend to find the resources for it. Click To Tweet Quickly eliminate things that aren't effective. Click To Tweet Create value for people, don't extract it from people. Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 424

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Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

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Next Episode: Anthony O’Neal

Almost everyone has a debt story, and on this episode, #1 national bestselling author, speaker, financial expert and host of the popular YouTube series and podcast The Table with Anthony O’Neal, Anthony shares his story. He also gives some practical strategies for how to start paying cash for everything, how to get out of college debt-free, and how parents can start saving for their kids and future.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 425.

CNLP 424: Rich Stearns on How to Beat Failure in Leadership, the Value of Persistence, and What For-Profits and Non-Profits Can Learn from Each Other

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