Steward Leadership and the Pursuit of Justice

Posted by Matthew Thomas

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matthew-thomas-2.jpgAs leaders who want to "do good while doing well," we realize that "doing the right thing" is inherent to our organizational life. As we have spoken of virtue lately - whether in a general sense, or with the specifics of temperance and prudence - our focus is how virtue can make us better leaders. Virtue provides us an aspirational sense of self, not merely sets of rules or best practices that help us avoid embarrassment, lawsuits, or criminal charges.


Within the context of virtue, justice provides us with more than just the sense that we obeyed the law and that we conducted ourselves ethically. Those are, of course, basic components to justice - as long as the law is itself just, and our ethics not mere self-justification of our common practice.


  • Justice as virtue means that we do right by people on an individual basis.
  • Justice as virtue means that we also do right by people on an organizational basis - how our company treats its customers, shareholders - honestly, anyone it comes in contact with, whether individuals or other organizations.
  • Like what you're reading? Subscribe Now! Justice as virtue means that our company's cause for being has at its core a desire to make the world a better place. As we make the world a better place, we make it a better place for all people - not just some at the expense of others. The produces we sell, the services we provide, the causes we champion - justice says that we keep our eye on the betterment of all.


Justice, then, requires that our organizational life have more than mere profit motivation. Steward leadership means that profitability and sustainability factor in to virtuous justice organizationally; without profitability and sustainability, the expectation would be bankruptcy - whereby we cry for mercy that we cannot meet our just obligations. These things are not inherently in opposition. Nevertheless, how profit (or surplus, in the case of non-profits) is obtained is as much a question of virtue as whether an enterprise is sustainable.


(Related: 6 Reasons Why Changing Your Mission Statement Didn't Work)


Justice helps us as steward leaders measure our interactions with others and the quality of what we produce. Therefore, as virtue, it guides us toward greater steward leadership of ourselves and our organizations.


I'm curious to see how you apply justice as you lead your organization.

How do you manage the use of virtue? If you wouldn't mind, e-mail me  and let me know how you see virtue at work.


We'd also like to provide you with a resource describing the balance of decision-making process: more reflective, or more active? Which way do you tend?


Tao of action-reflection, primer on process

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Topics: leadership, Matthew Thomas, steward leader, virtue, prudence, temperance, justice