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The stewardship model presented by Wilson is a comprehensive one where the leaders act as trustees or stewards and not as the owners. There are a number of examples where stewards manage resources for good and well-being of others. This classical understanding of steward has been applied by Wilson to the management of modern organization. Steward leadership that is defined and developed by Wilson is also taken as an alternative to servant leadership. The work of a steward leader gets easier when the people around him share similar stewardship belief which might be the value of identifying the stakeholder rights, their accountability, management of resources as a steward, and freedom of being motivated by having a servant attitude. He considers steward as someone who has been provided with resources to manage. These resources can be the employees of an organization also. A number of approaches are described by Wilson for the executive leaders for guiding and supporting the staff members for developing a steward’s mind-set. It requires self-embracing of a steward’s mind-set and frequent sharing of own perspective with others, making use of every opportunity for demonstrating the influence of one’s stewardship.
Peter Block is an early proponent of the concept of stewardship and he has described it as an alternative approach for mandate and force models of governance. He considers leadership to the work and demonstrates his bias while polarizing both stewardship and leadership against one another. It can also be stated that this contrast could be because of incomplete understanding of the legal role of accountability and authority in the concept of stewardship. His model describes an approach towards a leader being a steward by expanding on different skills of leadership: The first one describes about choosing of stewardship over leadership (A Marsiglia, 2009). He identifies leadership as a localization of power, privilege and purpose that is ineffective most of the times. The second contracting skill is the partnership choice, or in other terms the division of power and authority over patriarchy. The classical approaches of stewardship demonstrate the complete ownership beyond managers and employees instead of spreading it to everyone. The third contract developed by Block is the choice of empowerment against dependency. This helps in developing trust in people in understanding the best right thing to do for the customer, it gives the individual a responsibility and the power to get the work done in the best possible manner. Block then in his final contrast mentions about service against self-interest, where he sees leadership as stewardship, which involves being a steward of capabilities, careers, resources, values, and the environment also, being consciously aware about one’s duties and performing it with complete moral ambiguity through a clear focus on community outcomes and an unselfish serving in the best possible manner. An argument made by Block is about the traditional approaches to leadership being incompatible with various responsibilities in an organization. As in the field of public administration, along with the management of resources, authority and shared knowledge, it is equally important for a leader to reconsider their language (Wilson, 2016). Hence, in an organizational approach the concept of stewardship is viewed as a collective process. Thus, instead of considering it as an alternative, in the modern and complex organizations it is considered as the final outcome of an effective leadership.
Block’s model of stewardship
The selected model is of Peter Block whose perspective of stewardship is oriented towards organizational governance rather than behaviour of an individual. His model replaces the unfair hierarchal structure in an organization with a structure that is highly communal. His model focusses on capital-labor partnerships that should overcome the manager-subordinate relationship. His model describes about equal distribution of power and authority among the organization’s members. As per Block, true stewardship lies in empowering the people. He means that the power lies with the steward, but the steward is completely willing to share his power with everyone in the organization at every level, in such a manner where everyone is jointly responsible and accountable for the purpose of the organization and outcomes. The leader who acts as a steward provides everyone with the basic governance structure and strategy to initiate the work and then supports everyone at each step with self-direction by providing them the authority and power to achieve the desired results (IMD, 2015).
The contribution made by Block in the corporate literature about a steward leader is unique. He strongly emphasizes on service, empowerment and accountability, which is also a part of the traditional stewardship. Block’s understanding of the impregnate nature of stewardship in terms of its impact on the various practices of management, the functioning of employees and human resources, shows the intensity with which he views the impact of stewardship on an organization.
The organizations with effective stewardship where all staff perceives higher level of stewardship show immense trust, commitment, involvement, and high level of satisfaction along with a balance of power between the employee and the employer. By empowering the staff with the feeling and sense of ownership and responsibility for achieving organization’s success, it becomes easier for the stewards to keep the employees motivated and to get the involvement of the employees for investing their time and energy on the tasks that matter to them. This helps the steward to offer spirit to the employees for them being accountable for the well-being of the organization (Wilson, 2010).
Key elements of Block’s model of stewardship
There are certain key elements of stewardship as (1) Trust instead of holding on to ownership and control – The steward should not by any means use the resources for following his commands to get personal gains. (2) Responsibility – It is the responsibility of the steward to safeguard the current accomplishments of the organization as well as the future success (Block, 2013). Hence, he should take necessary actions and risks to achieve the mission of the organization and ensure that everyone is aware of their own responsibilities and deliver the tasks accordingly. (3) Accountability – It is important for the steward to provide accountability and ownership of one’s actions to the rightful owner and accordingly reward and punish for the outcomes.
Challenges and benefits of employing Block’s model
For building a culture of stewardship in an organization requires to make a paradigm shift from the present modus operandi. A challenge is the leaders are still expected to be talented individuals who have all the knowledge and power and everyone is dependent on their decisions. Another challenge that is associated with building a stewardship mind-set is that generally short-term individual achievements are rewarded as it is simpler to reward individual and short-term goals and achievements. On the other hand, with the stewardship culture, a different metric will have to be developed to assess the long-term, collective and people focussed outcomes. Along with all this, the major challenge comes to get the willingness of everyone to be stewards. This does not necessarily require to provide everyone with a position, but the stewardship behaviour can be entrusted to everyone in the organization which results in an effective organization instead of depending on a few leaders (Hernandez, 2008).
In a public service organization, stewardship forms an important mind-set. The public service officers work under the moral obligation of being stewards of the public good, and they always act by thinking about the impact of their decisions. The stewardship models can benefit the leaders of public sector organizations to be more effective by eliminating their individualistic tendency. They can better motivate everyone for working towards the betterment of the community (Wan, 2015).
The leaders of today’s generation are mostly of individualistic focus. They are highly ambitious and self-interested as is seen during their weighing of personal gains while taking decisions on various roles and responsibilities. They even are impatient and desire to achieve immediate returns. Hence, their work is generally scheduled on a shorter time-scale. This tendency of self-focus and working on short time-scales might be prevented by shifting to a stewardship culture. This can be said because the leaders of today’s generation also define job satisfaction and success through a sense of purpose. Work that gives them a sense of purpose is an important factor for them. Thus, stewardship can help by providing that major factor of larger meaning for the work of public service, to the existing employees and to attract others for joining the public service organizations (Skuza & Freeman, 2010).
The public sector leaders can benefit from stewardship to achieve the effectiveness of their organization’s mission by better decision making in terms of utilization of resources and focussing the efforts in a particular area. It will also help the leaders of public sector organization to eliminate the individualistic thinking and make decisions that defend the nation’s moral standards, and hence work and manage the employees in a manner that betters the staff. The stewardship model of Block in a public sector organization will help the stewards to empower everyone and make everyone accountable for their actions, which will result in each one performing their responsibilities with utmost care that achieves best result, and the empowerment will keep the employees motivated to work towards the greater good.
- A Marsiglia. (2009). Comparison of Servant Leadership and Stewardship. Retrieved from http://lead-inspire.com/Papers-Articles/Leadership-Management/Comparison%20of%20Servant%20Leadership%20and%20Stewardship.pdf
- Block, P. (2013). Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest. Retrieved from https://www.bkconnection.com/static/Stewardship_2nd_EXCERPT.pdf
- Hernandez, M. (2008). Promoting Stewardship Behavior in Organizations: A Leadership Model. Journal of Business Ethics, 80(1), 121-128. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5149211_Promoting_Stewardship_Behavior_in_Organizations_A_Leadership_Model
- IMD. (2015). Summary of literature: Effective stewardship. Retrieved from http://www.stewardshipasia.com.sg/sites/default/files/Summary%20of%20Literature-Effective%20Stewardship%20(SAC)%202015.pdf
- Skuza, J., & Freeman, D. (2010). Stewardship as a Means to Create Organizational Reform: A View into Minnesota 4-H Youth Development. 48(2). Retrieved from https://www.joe.org/joe/2010april/iw1.php
- Wan, K. (2015). Stewardship in the Context of Public Sector Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/Documents/Website/Stewardship%20in%20the%20Context%20of%20Public%20Sector%20Leadership.pdf
- Wilson. (2010). Steward leadership: characteristics of the steward leader in christian nonprofit organizations. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/5e83/15f4a8558f3809f86fc565ba865e34f5d57d.pdf
- Wilson, K. (2016). Steward Leadership in the Nonprofit Organization. Retrieved from https://www.ivpress.com/steward-leadership-in-the-nonprofit-organization
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