Steward Leadership: Who are the owners?

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2Recently, we have been talking about Steward Leaders and their relationship to owners and finances. These posts have led some to ask, "Who are the owners? On whose behalf does steward leadership manage resources and produce results?"


Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! In a traditional small business or closely-held corporate environment, this is usually quite clear: the leader works on behalf of the equity shareholders, the owners of the company. In a healthy enterprise, the Steward Leader manages on behalf of the owners as a whole, speaking together.


In a corporation with a board, the board itself is a steward of the larger collection of shareholders. This makes even C-level management an under-steward of this core stewardship entity.


Outside of the business and corporate sectors, getting at the enterprise's owners can get a bit more tricky. We see the following four classes of enterprise, with their owners:


  1. FourOrgTypeswithComplexOwenershipGovernmental entities: In democracies, the franchised general public are the collective owners of the municipality, park district, state, county or other entity. The elected officials are the stewards on behalf of the general public as owners. The trick is, of course, that the people are also usually the primary beneficiaries of the stewards' work, and, at many levels, its customers. Teasing out the differences is often fraught and complex.
  2. Community and cause non-profits: Once again, in democracies, the general public are the collective owners of the non-profit - although in this case, voting rights aren't directly relevant, since the nonprofits aren't elected, nor typically granted police powers. The cause is intended to benefit the general public through its efforts. The active participants steward the nonprofits resources on behalf of the public for the common good.
  3. Membership organizations: the owners are typically the members, with the other structures designed to support the
  4. Churches, religious and ministry organizations: These often define ownership either in their members (or a subset thereof), or in their God. Often, they define it both ways. This leads to some particular complexities for these organizations. (These complexities are outside the scope of this blog, but we'd be glad to help if this is your situation.)


Knowing on whose behalf the steward leaders operate helps with strategic process - particularly measuring and reporting the right things to the right people. When steward leaders know who they really work for, making sure those owners' needs and goals are met can become more straightforward.


Design Group International offers an E-book entitled, "Wheel Forward or Spiral Downward: Making a choice for strategic design." In it, readers examine six questions to get at creating and maintaining positive organizational momentum. Check it out for free by clicking the button below.


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Topics: business ownership, church, church decision making, Ownership, leadership and communication, steward leadership

Links for Organizational Leaders - 20 August 2013

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Here are some articles that would be of interest to those in nonprofit leadership and pastoral ministry.

Fights in Family Business: how family dynamics play out in businesses. Churches run by a few families should also take note.

Rethinking Small Church: when small church is working, and when it's a sign of dysfunction.

What would happen if the church tithed? A dramatic look at the depth of potential resources for churches and other charitable organizations.

Who New CEOs Fire First: a study on who gets let go first, and why.

Increasing numbers of twenty-somethings are neither in work nor school. Here is a project attempting to wrestle with those issues. Check out Project Rise here.

Seth Godin's take on recent changes to Permission Marketing. For background on Permission Marketing, check out this page. Marketers, evangelists and, frankly, anyone trying to get their message out should read this, if they haven't already.

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Topics: tithe, church, family business, stewardship, permission marketing, Matthew Thomas, Organizational Leadership, Design Group International

Steward Leadership: Combating Anxiety in Declining Organizations

Posted by Matthew Thomas

If the organization you serve is old enough to have had "glory days," and those days aren't now, then you probably serve an organization that has experienced decline (even if it is currently plateaued or growing). 

Decline creates a potent draught of emotions that, among other things, has a strong component of anxiety. Fear for a positive future often sets in when people realize that there aren't as many people as before, isn't as much money as there was in previous budgets, or the building doesn't look quite as fresh as it used to be.

Setting aside for now the denial and blame that often crop up when these things become, for the first time, obvious to the organization, anxiety often rules organizations that see their best days as behind them. They have trouble seeing a positive outcome and future that does not involve loss, pain, and grief.

Anxiety often leads to control mechinisms that move the focus off of mission and onto management. This tends to compound the problem, although it looks like people are taking steps to deal with the situation.

So what can we do?

Here are four options:

  • Acknowledge the anxiety and the reality of what drives it. This allows it to come out in the open, and then people can begin to deal with it. This may involve breaking a few eggshells that people are walking on, so do this with grace.
  • Be decisive. Clear-headed confidence (without hubris or overconfidence) can often bring security to people who are ruffled by anxiety. Dragging out decisions and waffling will increase anxiety.
  • Create a plan. Be strategic, looking for big-picture capacity to change. Don't just solve the immediate problem.
  • Give people something to do. Large or small, when people are working on something, they don't have as much chance to go around in mental circles.

Do you have more ideas? Share them with us. Click the button below!

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Topics: church, Matthew Thomas, Organizational Leadership, Nonprofit Organization, Design Group International, steward leadership