Most would acknowledge that leaders are stewards. By definition, stewardship means that we look after the interests of someone or something else rather than ourselves. However, what we are stewarding and for whom requires some deep thinking and regular realignment because it is easy to get this wrong. We can inadvertently steward the wrong thing! This is true whether you lead a team or an organization.
At any one time, if we are not careful, we may be stewarding (and looking after the interests of) ourselves or others and a mission.
Leaders have the power to set agendas and focus. They also have the opportunity to look out for their interests or the interests of others. They can guard or give away authority and power. In fact, when a leader guards their authority, rather than sharing it, it is a sign that their stewardship is more about them than it is about others.
The more autonomous a leader is in their decision-making (rather than sharing that decision-making with other competent individuals), the more their stewardship is about their interests, their ego, and their power. Often, they do not see it, but those around them do.
In all of this, ego is the enemy. Ego is about me and my interests, and to the extent that we focus on retaining our power and authority or arranging things for our interests and agenda, we are stewarding ourselves, not a mission or on behalf of an organization and its staff.
There are four characteristics of those who are true stewards rather than faux stewards.
One: they think mission and something greater than themselves, talk about that mission, and encourage the whole organization to align their work around the accomplishment of that mission. It is not about themselves but about something greater than themselves.
Two: they lead from a place of great humility. This means that they bring others into the decision-making process, don't need to get their own way, admit when they are wrong, are non-defensive, open, and take differing opinions easily.
Three: They share decision-making, power, and authority in appropriate ways, giving these to other competent people rather than hoarding them for themselves.
Four: They genuinely care about people around them, and their words, interactions, and actions reflect that care. Ego-driven people care about themselves, while humble leaders care about others.
If you lead others, take a moment to reflect on this issue of stewardship and the four markers of those who are true stewards. All of us can improve, and this is an issue that leaders need to be aware of on a regular basis.