Lesson three moves away from what is thought of as typical leadership. Unfortunately, in what I see promulgated as leadership at this point in time stewarding is sorely missing. It would seem that the goal is self, as in what about me. That is not leading in any way. As a leader you steward other people’s time, energy, future and most of all trust. For example if you must sever a relationship you are stewarding the welfare of their family, you are messing with their hopes and dreams. In the same way when you hire someone you are helping them fulfill their dream, you are giving them a gift of hope. Thus as a leader you are a giver not a taker. The outcome of all you do must never be about you. Always remember that reality. Finally a quote as you move forward through unchartered waters or leadership.
“You have to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” Anne Dillard. Leading is never safe!
Lesson 3 – Stewardship: If you are going to lead then you must dedicate your life to serving other people. Great leaders are givers, not takers. The popular phrase for this is servant leadership. Personally I find the term steward more appropriate. Both concepts require service but stewardship implies a personal choice. It is based on a voluntary and passionate commitment to another person or ideal.
A steward is a guide. He or she is a person of great loyalty and persistence to the dream. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are prime exemplars. In American history John Adams is another. All three of these men looked beyond themselves to pursue a dream, based upon sound beliefs, principles and vision. Each was highly successful. Yet, to gain perspective let’s look at a leadership failure, a person of great potential who did not succeed because he was not a steward.
George Armstrong Custer was destined for greatness. He had what are commonly thought to be traits of a leader; he was bright, energetic and charismatic. Unfortunately, these gifts were directed inward toward himself instead of outward to those he was leading; Custer fell into the trap of serving himself. He craved fame, fortune and, some suggest, the presidency so intensely that he put his personal agenda ahead of everything else. Because of his arrogance he refused to listen to his key advisors and split his military force in a futile attempt to be certain he was the center of the victory. He got his wish; by becaming the focal point of defeat, not victory. Custer’s leadership character was flawed. He put his personal ambition ahead of those he served. He was not a steward.