The Whiteboard: Good leaders embrace responsibility for others
Stewardship is a key element of leadership.
That’s something I learned years ago. Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. I don’t believe enough leaders or potential leaders are taught to be good stewards today.
Much of the education and training we see today is about solving problems and getting results. Leadership training focuses on achieving results through others. Directing, delegating, monitoring and correcting are key topics.
Emotional intelligence or EQ training is given to help leaders be more attuned to the people around and under them, but a high EQ score does not equate to a high level of stewardship. The fact that you can read someone’s emotions and show some empathy does not necessarily mean you are a good steward.
Examples of poor stewardship are ubiquitous. Just as I was preparing to write this column, I saw a news report on more revelations about members of the U.S. Congress using taxpayer funds from their office budgets to settle claims of sexual harassment. So some people in our highest national offices cannot be trusted to be good stewards of the people’s money and they can’t be trusted to be good stewards of the people who work for them.
We recently had several examples of officials in high offices using government aircraft, at huge taxpayer expense, to travel where they could easily have flown commercially at a tiny fraction of the cost. Some of these trips were pretty obviously boondoggles. Spouses were along for the ride on trips that had more to do with a nice getaway than with the people’s business.
I don’t mean to pick on government officials. They just happen to be highly visible. There is no shortage of terrible stewardship in business.
The entertainment business is exploding with stories of horrible stewardship. Producers and directors face multiple accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. Some of these supposed leaders have behaved in ways that show a stunning disregard for the people who have been entrusted to their care. It is as if stewardship is a completely alien concept in their worlds.
Leaders have resigned at Silicon Valley tech companies and venture capital firms over sexual harassment allegations. Google has been dogged by allegations that executives turned a blind eye to harassment. Allegations of a culture of sexual harassment led in part to the resignation of Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick and the resignations or terminations of several other executives.
If you’ve been around as long as I have you’ve been exposed to the new leader who spends a fortune redecorating his or her office. Or those who think nothing of traveling first class while cutting wages to improve a bonus payout. You don’t have to go out of your way searching for a lack of stewardship. Eventually it finds you.
In the end, I believe that leaders who do these things have never been trained and mentored to understand that with leadership comes a serious stewardship responsibility. They aren’t trained that they are being entrusted with people’s careers and, in some ways, their lives.
A good steward isn’t looking for ways to take advantage of the people entrusted to him. Good stewards seeks ways to help their people grow and thrive, because they have been entrusted to them. A good steward doesn’t look for ways to live lavishly at work without anyone higher up catching on to the spending. He or she takes good care of those resources.
We need more stewardship. Take a minute to think about your stewardship. Take the time to help new leaders become good stewards.