Stewardship Leadership: Not Just Being in Charge, But Taking Care of Those in Charge
Christopher E. Maynard
In the world of business and beyond, leadership is a concept often explored and discussed with great interest. The global fascination with leadership stems from its universal relevance, touching every sphere of life from politics to education, to commerce and home settings. Leadership is not confined to boardrooms or battlefields but exists wherever human interaction occurs. Among the myriad leadership theories and principles that exist, one viewpoint stands out for its profound wisdom and humanistic approach: "Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge." At its core, this perspective shifts the traditional paradigm of leadership from authority and control to stewardship and nurturing. It brings to the fore the role of a leader as a caretaker, a shepherd, and a guide, rather than merely a figure of command. This article aims to delve into the depth of this perspective, providing insights into how this outlook shapes positive leadership and impacts organizational outcomes.
Before diving into the depths of this leadership paradigm, it's essential to understand why this shift in perspective is crucial in today's context. As we navigate through an increasingly complex, globalized, and diverse world, the demands on leaders have significantly transformed. It's no longer adequate to merely command and enforce; leaders today are expected to inspire, nurture, and foster a culture of innovation and collaboration. They need to focus not only on the bottom line but also on the holistic development of their team members. Hence, understanding and implementing the idea that "Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge" becomes not just a matter of choice but a leadership imperative. In the sections that follow, we will first delve into the common misconceptions about leadership and then explore the concept of stewardship leadership, its impact, and how it paves the way for a more nurturing and effective leadership style.
The Misconception of Leadership:
Often, the perception of leadership is skewed towards viewing it as a position of power and authority. Leaders are seen as individuals who give directives, make decisions, and enforce rules and procedures. While these elements do play a role in leadership, this viewpoint is incomplete and narrow, reducing leadership to mere management and control.
The reason this traditional perception of leadership persists is mainly due to societal conditioning and historical precedent. From ancient kings to modern CEOs, people in leadership positions have often been portrayed as having unilateral control and authority, with others expected to follow their directives unquestioningly. However, such a top-down leadership approach often overlooks the needs, aspirations, and potentials of those being led, resulting in a lack of engagement, creativity, and productivity.
Stewardship Leadership: Taking Care of Those in Your Charge:
Contrary to the traditional view, the concept of stewardship leadership emphasizes that the role of a leader goes beyond wielding authority and being in charge. It proposes that leadership is primarily about taking care of those entrusted to the leader's care, nurturing their growth, and fostering an environment where they can thrive.
At its core, stewardship leadership focuses on service, responsibility, and commitment towards the team. It recognizes that every team member is a valuable contributor to the organizational success and requires a supportive, enabling environment to deliver their best. It is about empowering others, providing them with the necessary tools, resources, and guidance to accomplish their tasks effectively. Stewardship leaders invest time and effort into understanding their team members' strengths and weaknesses, aspirations, and concerns, and leverage this understanding to align team members' growth with organizational goals.
The Impact of Stewardship Leadership:
Adopting a stewardship approach to leadership has far-reaching positive effects on individuals and organizations alike.
Increased Employee Engagement: When leaders show genuine concern for their team members' welfare and growth, it fosters a sense of belonging and engagement among the team. Employees who feel valued and cared for are likely to be more committed to their work and organization.
Promotion of Innovation and Creativity: Stewardship leaders, by their nurturing nature, foster an environment that encourages risk-taking, creativity, and innovation. When employees feel safe and supported, they are more likely to propose novel ideas and solutions, driving the organization's growth and innovation.
Improved Team Morale and Productivity: Teams led by stewardship leaders are likely to have high morale because the leaders handle setbacks with empathy and lead by example. This approach boosts team spirit, which ultimately enhances productivity.
Enhanced Reputation and Attraction of Talent: Companies that are known to take care of their employees attract top talent. Employees are increasingly looking for workplaces that prioritize employee wellbeing, and stewardship leadership provides this atmosphere.
While the traditional leadership approach focuses on command and control, the paradigm of stewardship leadership recognizes that effective leadership is about taking care of those in one's charge. This approach, focusing on nurturing, enabling, and empowering team members, not only humanizes leadership but also brings tangible benefits in terms of employee engagement, productivity, innovation, and organizational reputation. In a world that increasingly values empathy, inclusiveness, and sustainable growth, stewardship leadership offers a path that aligns with these values and promises enduring success. Leadership, therefore, is not about being at the helm but ensuring that everyone in the vessel is safe, comfortable, and contributing to the journey's success. After all, leadership is less about the leader and more about those they lead.