The designation of Steward Leader is becoming more widely known. A recent for instance: long-time friend, Mike Tenpas, CEO of UFS, began writing a weekly letter to the people tied to his company's ecosystem on this theme. It keeps sparking meaningful conversation and more interaction than other forms of leadership communication he'd used in the past.

At the heart of the approach, the Steward Leader believes they hold in trust the welfare of the organization they serve and all who connect to it. The Steward Leader, therefore, takes the long view of personal and organizational transformation. They are happy for short-term gains, but only with the long view in mind.


As with all good leadership constructs, inherent talent and acquired skills are part of the mix for the Steward Leader. Some characteristics are challenging to measure as one or the other. How the Steward Leader approaches knowledge, for example.

Which do you think it is, a talent one is born with or an acquired skill to be able to say one does NOT know something? The admirable Steward Leader is confident in what they know and the knowledge they don't know everything. They can admit they don't know what they don't know. The brain might fill with wisdom, knowledge, data, and personal experience, but the Steward Leader knows that the expanding universe outside their brain is vaster still, much of it outside their ability to perceive.

This "don't know, can't know some stuff" approach flies in the face of what we might call the Ceasar Leader. The Ceasar Leader postures themselves as all-powerful, all-knowing, able to conquer worlds under their own bravado. They take credit for every victory, blame an underling for every failure, and change their minds when it suits them--never admitting that they did so.

The world is full of Ceasar Leaders. They bring us corporate failure, warfare, moral scandal, crashing empires, the decimation of populations, and a lot of screaming. 

Putting it into the consulting world: the Ceasar Leader types will pass themselves off as having every answer to your every need. The Steward Leader will tell you they are willing to learn alongside you and your organization. The Ceasar Leader views you as an account to sell and then upsell, taking the credit for any success that might result. The Steward Leader celebrates your victory, assuming that the combination of everyone's effort and openness to learning in that unique place and time brings the possibility success can happen. Maybe there will be more work to do together, maybe not, but they will part with you as friends, and you won't mind inviting them back.

I want to be counted among those Steward Leaders, as a lifelong learner and fellow traveler. Even more, I want to keep growing my commitment to admit that there is much I do not know. That way, I remain teachable, more adaptable, and a better leader over the long haul.

-mark l vincent

Learning Summit Social 3


Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
August 25, 2022
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.