Business consultant Peter Block is no stranger to controversy. A number of his previous works explored the reaches of transformational management, including his bestselling book The Empowered Manager. In an even bolder way, Stewardship – Choosing Service over Self-Interest offers a dynamic new organizational structure for our young century. Block defines stewardship as “the means of achieving fundamental change in the way we govern our institutions.” He believes that stewardship is a choice “to preside over the orderly distribution of power.” This means giving individuals at the bottom of the organizational structure the choice on how to best serve their customers, citizens and community”. It also means accepting accountability at all levels. Block continues to define stewardship as being accountable to the larger organization by “operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us.” His philosophy is centered on a need and commitment to service rather than self-interest.
Peter Block challenges the modern notion of strong leadership and suggests replacing the term with stewardship. His problem with leadership is that he does not believe it has the capability to create fundamental changes in our organizations. He also believes that leadership “inevitably becomes self-congratulatory and over-controlling. We expect leaders to choose service over self-interest, but it seems the choice is rarely made.” Perhaps Block would have better made his point by discussing the various philosophies that pass as leadership rather than neatly collecting them all in one term. Indeed, leadership is often a vague and misunderstood term.
Stewardship – Choosing Service over Self-Interest is a book with three parts. The first part discusses the basic concept of stewardship. It highlights the promises offered by developing a passion toward stewardship in contrast to what we experience in traditionally managed organizations. The second part of the book discusses the redistribution of power in a practical way. This controversial section of the book butchers many managerial “sacred cows” and offers a vision of what stewardship can be like in action! Part three examines the reform process and explores how you and your organization can get from where it is today to an environment of stewardship.
If you are one who is not satisfied with the status quo, you will find this book exciting and refreshing. Sometimes written in almost theological terms, Block inspires the reader to expect more from our institutions and ourselves. This book should find itself on the bookshelf of every person interested in the study of leadership.
Stewardship – Choosing Service Over Self-Interest
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1996 (264 pages in paperback)
Author Peter Block
weLEAD rating highly recommended
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