Steward Leadership: Accountability and Initiative

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Steward leaders tend to desire accountability within their organizations – including for themselves. One question that often arises is who holds whom accountable, and who initiates accountability within the organization.

matthew-thomas-2To whom are steward leaders accountable? In the strictest sense, they are accountable to the owner or owners of the enterprise, and are accountable to that ownership through any intermediate leaders between the particular steward leader and the owner or owners themselves. For most enterprises, ownership is clear: they are the equity shareholders in the company. In the case of larger companies with many shareholders, a board of directors represents these shareholders’ interests on the company’s behalf.

In a non-profit, ownership is often less clear, but must be defined as well. If the non-profit is operating on behalf of a “general public,” it is that “general public” that owns the organization. In a church, with some variations on particular polity, the ultimate “owner” of the church is God, whether that be expressed at the congregational, synod, associational, diocesan, or other ecclesiastical level.

In this model, the owners initiate accountability through their representatives, and those representatives hold accountable those who work for them. The steward leader who desires accountability, and is not the owner, must receive it from those who are one step closer to the owners than they are, if not the owners themselves.

If a leader does not have that option for accountability, he or she might initiate a group to which they can offer the kind of reporting and obtain the kind of permission usually conducted by formal accountability. This is, in some ways, the best kind of steward leadership possible in certain contexts that struggle with accountability. However, this will not be real accountability as long as the leader has the initiative and is not bound by the group’s decisions. It will give some level of transparency, to be sure, but it will not be true accountability unless the leader is bound to accept the group’s decisions – both yes and no, and the group has the authority to inquire and obtain reporting about any subject germane to the leader’s work, on the group’s terms.

There is value in having a group of key stakeholders with whom the leader maintains some basic level of transparency, and there is certainly nothing wrong with any leader having a job-relevant advisory group. However, neither is true accountability. True accountability, in the sense we are discussing,

  • Is at the initiative of the owners or their representatives,
  • Is limited in scope to the organization’s purpose,
  • Has yes and no authority within its scope,
  • Sets limits and direction.

What kinds of accountability structures does your organization have?

 

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This post is part of a series on accountability in organizations. See the previous posts here:

Organizational Health: The Struggle with Accountability

Non-Profit Governance: The Independence of the Board of Directors

 

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Topics: governance, steward leadership

Organizational Design: When the Same People are Governing and Doing

Posted by Matthew Thomas

In settings where a board in a church, non-profit or government-connected organization acts both as the governing body for the organization and the primary people getting the work done, there is often a need to separate the task roles from the governance roles that the board plays.

Purpose tends to get bogged down in projects. Boards that are responsible both for governance and for getting the work done are extremely susceptible to this.

One strategy for dealing with this may be to take one meeting out of every four and make it all about purpose and mission – in the sense of what kind of big-picture goals the board has. This purpose and mission should operate at a high level: not merely, “we want to do x number of events this year,” but “this is the kind of impact we want to have on our organization, our community, and our world.” As these purposes develop in the “one-in-four” meetings, the tasks to be done will begin to cluster around those purposes. Of course, the board will have to be active in making it so, but it will be simpler to keep everything together.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping, executive coaching and governance services to organizations and enterprises of all types. Click on the link below to contact us to see how we may work together to grow your organization!

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Topics: governance, Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, organizational design

Organizational Governance: When A Board Wears Two Hats

Posted by Matthew Thomas

I have been in numerous settings where a board in a church, non-profit or government-connected organization acts both as the governing body for the organization and the primary people getting the work done. This situation is so common as to be considered the norm in many kinds of organizations.

This kind of situation carries with it a number of different challenges that are not found (at least as often or as readily) in organizations that have a formal staff – or at least someone empowered as a CEO.

  • The board often feels overworked, like they’re doing all the heavy lifting.
  • The board often feels like no one else in the organization is as dedicated to the cause as they are, because no one else (or very few outside of board members) is doing much work.
  • Meetings often get bogged down in details of events or projects.
  • Things often are left undone or finished by the most dedicated board member (often the chair) because no one is held accountable to get things completed.
  • Purpose drifts based upon the passion and interests of the most vocal or dedicated “doers” on the board.

Even in a board that has to wear two hats – having no staff or only minimal staff – the board can deal with these issues to bring greater clarity and results to their organization.

Design Group International offers strategic mapping, executive coaching and governance services to organizations and enterprises of all types. Click on the link below to contact us to see how we may work together to grow your organization!

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Topics: governance, Matthew Thomas, Design Group International

Organizational Design: Simplifying Governance

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Simplifying governance is a different animal than simplifying management. Many organizations have created governance structures that take on a life of their own. Innumerable committees, advisory groups formed in crisis and set in concrete, multiple layers of approval, separate-but-equal structures that operate without coordination – these things have become norms for many organizations. Moreover, the level of direct control the governing groups have in day-to-day management of the organization often confounds their governing role.

Some organizations try to simplify governance by reducing the numbers of people involved. This helps, to a point: however, reducing the sheer numbers of moving parts, independent or subordinate governance entities, and moving toward unified governance is the most reliable solution.

Most of all, though, getting governance out of micromanagerial and detailed monitoring roles will reduce the weight of governance significantly and aid greatly in its simplification.

Design Group International Consultants can assist you and your organization in bringing simplicity to your governing structure. Click on the button below to contact us to see how we might work together!

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Topics: governance, Simplicity, Matthew Thomas, Design Group International, organizational design