Are You a Steward Leader or an Owner Leader?
How to avoid the three traps of ‘owner’ leadership
There are countless temptations that face us as leaders and three in particular create a perfect storm that can trap us into the bondage of the owner leader.
How do you react when people who are seeking to raise funds ask to have access to ‘your people’? Your answer is a powerful illustration of whether you are a steward leader or owner leader. It will follow one of two worldviews. Either you will adopt the view of the owner leader driven by fear and seek to protect the ‘fish’ in your pond, or you will embrace the view of the steward leader who is set free to stock the streams that flow past them to the benefit of everyone.
Let’s explore the traps and characteristics of an owner leader.
Owner leaders never have enough. They see life and leadership through the lenses of scarcity. They assume that if ‘their people’ give to others there will be less left for them. Owner leaders consider giving as a zero sum game. As a result they decide for their people who should be inviting their generosity. By protecting their pond and keeping others from fishing in it, owner leaders usurp the place of the Holy Spirit who alone should be guiding people in how they give and to whom they give.
A lack of total trust in God as our provider opens the door for fear. Owner leaders fall prey to the adage that ‘if we fear God we will fear nothing else, if we don’t fear God we will fear everything else.’ Out of that fear they protect their pond and in doing so they subtly shift their trust in God to their people and their pocket books.
Owner leaders exercise their authority by protecting their pond instead of yielding to God’s leading and trusting in His power and provision. Owner leaders who are unable to surrender their people and their needs to God with freedom end up holding on and holding back in the attempt to control where and how their people give. This is a matter of misplaced security that breeds owner-centered control.
If we are not to be protectors of our pond, what is the alternative? I suggest we are called and commissioned to be stockers of our streams. Here is the metaphor. Streams move. They come to us from another place and the flow past us and on to others. As the water flows past us we have opportunities to both harvest from it and contribute to it. What we can’t do is control it.
Steward leaders view their supporters from an abundance mindset because they serve and trust an abundant God. They know that in God’s economy there is always enough. As steward leaders place their trust in the God of abundance they lead others to be openhanded and generous. They stock their streams by helping their supporters become more faithful stewards, engendering hearts that are rich toward God. Stream stocking is a kingdom work carried out by steward leaders that results in increasing support for all kingdom causes and brings blessing into the lives of God’s people.
Finally, steward leaders refuse the temptation for control. They ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6), confident that the God of abundance will supply all of their needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4). Therefore, they are free to stock generously into the streams of the lives that flow past them without the need to control outcomes. They live and lead confidently that if they invest faithfully into their streams as stewards, they can trust God to bring the increase pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. As a result, they have no need to protect a pond but add richly to the resources in a stream of ever increasing provision for all the work of the kingdom.
May God convict us of our owner leader ways, our scarcity worldview and our fearful desire to protect our ponds. And may we be set free to be steward leaders that stock the streams that flow through our lives for the benefit of all God’s people.