“The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Leadership is dangerous.
Leadership by definition does not demand that we are careful of or responsible for the people and resources we are entrusted.
At its worst, it becomes nothing more than a title or a position to be achieved in a quest for personal power and reward.
When leadership is left to itself it can take on many forms, some of which do great harm.
Stewardship is the counterbalance.
Leadership is the what.
Stewardship provides the how.
Stewardship leaves things better than they were before.
“the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care” – Merriam-Webster.com
The essence of stewardship is that we are entrusted with something more than a position of authority.
We are caretakers.
Responsible for things that are not ours.
But expected to treat them as though they are.
A business or organization that someone else has labored to create.
What if we considered that the people we lead are lending us a part of their lives and trusting us to be good stewards of their investment?
A steward is bound to consider the long-term impact of decisions because they know that the end does not justify the means when one is accountable for the care and preservation of what has been entrusted.
Pause here and consider how the integration of stewardship informs our leadership.
Consider also the influence good stewardship has on others in the organization.
Perhaps all leadership development programs should include an in-depth review of what it means to be a good steward.
Job descriptions and performance management systems adjusted to describe expectations of stewardship.
It cannot be implied.
It must be understood.
Use the word.
It will generate the right questions and produce better answers.
“We need your leadership.”
“And we require your stewardship.”
It is quite obvious when a leader does not make this connection.
There is a clear distinction between those who are committed to “care and preservation” and those are focused elsewhere.
The world needs leaders who understand the responsibility of stewardship that is vital to the effectiveness of leadership.
Questions to ponder:
Do you see leadership and stewardship reflected in your choices and actions?
Where does stewardship fit in your organization? How often is it demonstrated? What is the impact?