Current leaders can and should help create an environment that nurtures the development of the next generation of leadership. Such an environment blends a sense of stewardship and ownership. Stewardship, at the most basic level, is about taking care of something that belongs to someone else. Historically, stewardship in business has meant the act of managing someone else’s property, finances, or affairs. In an organizational setting today, stewardship implies that you focus not just on your own needs but also on the duties that you owe other people and the organization as a whole.
A culture of ownership is what it sounds like: even if you do not own the company, you value having ownership of projects, processes, customer relationships, and, yes, problems too. In this type of culture, you have to think and act like an owner. You have a line of sight: you can see a direct connection between what you do every day and the performance of the company as a whole.
In a culture of ownership, you will share information and information will be shared with you about the financial elements of the project, unit, or company. You’ll know what it means to be late or early with deliverables or to have a happy or unhappy customer in terms of hard dollars and cents. You also will have a share in both the pocketbook and psychic incentives working in that organization; pocketbook incentives impact the wallet, while psychic incentives impact the heart. And you’ll be involved in opportunities for meaningful conversations about how things will work in the future.
Building a culture that blends stewardship and ownership has real benefits. This model is already in place in many professional services and other project-based organizations. These businesses can generate high customer satisfaction and serve as great places to work.
If you were to describe your leadership team today, would you use descriptors like steward or owner? Would it make a difference?