Leadership starts with understanding responsibility, not ability. leadership is a stewardship not a show. rick warren
Our journey through SERVANT LEADERSHIP continues! This week we discuss the competency STEWARDSHIP - the eighth principle in the SERVant Leadership...ON Purpose! series.
Leaders defined in the servant leadership context: "...are good stewards and are concerned for individuals, organizations, and the world at large. Servant leaders make good use of all that is given to them and understand stewardship from a global perspective."
Robert Greenleaf observed "This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions ― often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”
Peter Block - an American author, consultant, and speaker in the areas of organization development, community building, and civic engagement - has defined stewardship as "holding something in trust for another."
Robert Greenleaf 's view of institutions was one in which "CEOs, staffs, and trustees all played significant roles in holding their institutions in trust for the greater good of society. Servant leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion rather than control."
Another leadership scholar adds, "Steward leaders recognize that if they become fully committed to helping the organization achieve its goals, they too, will achieve success and maximize their utility."
In essence…think of stewardship as "good asset management"!
Ironically, stewardship is LESS about giving but MORE about managing the gifts we have been given! An insightful leader practicing servant leadership gets this!
The "good steward" is someone who is doing the best he or she can with the gifts they have been given. The reality shows up in how an individual and organizations, shares those gifts for the greater good. In other words, stewardship is akin to good asset management. We stand to learn from professional asset management!
Professional asset management is defined as "the strategic management of physical, human, environmental and financial resources usually during their life in an organization." Assets have a life cycle. They are planned, created, used, managed, maintained, and put to their highest and best use over time and then, when appropriate, disposed.
It's also about leverage!
I like the definition of leverage as defined by Business Dictionary.com - The ability to influence a system, or an environment, in a way that multiplies the outcome of one's efforts without a corresponding increase in the consumption of resources. In other words, leverage is the advantageous condition of having a relatively small amount of cost yield a relatively high level of returns. See also financial leverage and operating leverage.
The concept of leverage is all about maximizing the return on TIME, TALENT and TREASURE! A servant leader adept at stewardship can, no doubt, be a positive influence in this dynamic!
Servant leaders care more and control less.
Larry Spears notes, “Servant-leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion rather than control.”
“Control” isn’t just represented by the red-faced leader who pounds on a desk when things don’t go his or her way. Zero control also indicates lack of caring for those within your circle of influence. In essence, the two extremes of “I micro-manage everything you do,” and “I don’t have time to notice anything you do.” greatly diminishes the likelihood of individuals within an organization finding a “sweet spot” within where to thrive.
Genuinely showing that you care about others is one of the most powerful actions any leader can model.
Servant leaders understand they are entrusted with that which they do not own.
Servant leaders care for people and possessions. They do not carelessly toss people aside (especially those within their circles of influence), nor do they use equipment, resources, budgets, etc., carelessly. A example where this can be applied is within government. Government owns nothing. The appointed / elected care for and manage that which belongs NOT to them but those they serve.
Servant leaders leave a legacy.
A legacy is defined as, “A thing handed down by a predecessor.”
Servant leaders believe in “handing down” knowledge, skills, abilities, insights, and wisdom. They are not as concerned about reputation as they are character. Stewardship asks servant leaders to become accountable for an organization’s outcomes for the greater good. Along the way, servant leaders express genuine care without the need to control.
Can you imagine how different our world would be if we had more leaders like that?
Steps to Practice Stewardship
This means at multiple levels - individual, group, organization. This includes: gifts, talents, strengths, time and resources (financial, intellectual and material). The inventory assessment will identify gaps and resources needed to fill the gaps. Servant leaders facilitate this process and help take inventory.
The task of taking inventory should include asking:
If you recall in previous servant leader blogs, we have indicated it is not what the leader thinks but what the leader is able to discern from his teams. This is a collaborative approach. The same is true for this step - commit. After the inventory is completed, what is the group willing to commit?
This part takes courage! Some great example of corporate stewardship:
Recently, in an article in Forbes magazine Edward Lawler III shared how he, Sue Mohrman, and James O’Toole assembled a group of experts to chronicle what is known about how corporations can act as stewards. Together they produced a book Corporate Stewardship: Achieving Sustainable Effectiveness. The authors agree the changes required by organizations are fundamental, and entail nothing short of the re-purposing. Some examples:
Google - let's it's employees spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google and the world.
Others offer a range of sabbaticals - to spend their time where they see fit:
There is risk in everything an organization does - there's even risk in doing nothing - being stagnant. The servant leader helps the team understand the risk and helps the team mitigate it. The group's risk tolerance will impact the level of confidence. The stronger the belief, confidence, and faith the team has the more the team can reduce the feeling of risk.
Progress, growth and enhancements of organization's gifts, talents, strengths, and resources should be one of the goals of stewardship...leaving the world in a better place as a result of being good stewards! That will NOT be without with determination, discipline, hard work, resets and tweaks. The servant leader facilitates this so the group does not grow weary.
Tracking progress can be as simple as establishing metrics that can be measured and tracked or as complex as measuring impact of the organization on the world.
Servant-leadership and stewardship can be highly effective approaches to serving the human needs in a contemporary organization. STEWARDSHIP is a WIN-WIN proposition. Be committed to maximize the THREE - TALENTS | TIME | TREASURE - for the greater good and watch exponential results occur.
My best to your quest!
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted relationships where individuals, teams and leaders NAME, CLAIM and AIM their gifts to achieve optimum performance.
Interested to Learn About Yourself or Your Team? Mark is a Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, Facet5 and TotalSDI Facilitator and happy to discuss your situation.
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About Mark Myette
I believe each of us is a gift. I create trusted
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