Steward Theory

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Theoretical Framework

One of the most common organizational theory is the agency theory, according to which an organizational leader uses controls and processes to guide an organization to achieve its goals (Neuhaus, et al 2017). Rodin (2010) argued that while agency theory is self-serving, there are alternative theories that rely on the goodness of individuals. One such alternative theory is ‘Steward Leadership’. In the area, there are two notable contributions: by Block (1993) and Wilson (2016).   While both the works emphasized on steward leadership through choosing service over self-interest, districting dualities, and focusing on the workplace. In this essay, the latter model is being selected for two reasons: First, the latter is more recent and can be considered more relevant in modern times. Second, since I am familiar with a non-profit organization, so using Wilson (2016) will be more relevant. 

Block (2013) argued that usually it is considered that common leadership approaches can be applied in a non-profit as well as in a for-profit organization. However, according to the arguments by Wislon (2016), since the organizational goals of the two organizational forms (non-profit and for-profit) are different so the leadership approach also needs to be different. While Wilson (2016) focused on the application of leadership approaches in historical and religious contexts as well, however as per the scope of this paper, the focus is confined to modern organizational settings.

According to Wilson (2016), there are five key characteristics of steward leadership: First, it is based on the identity of the leader. Second, the leader understands that the resources under him are not owned by him instead they are just under his care. Third, the leader has a strong relationship with the owner as the leader considers himself to be just a caretaker of the resources. Fourth, a leader not only considers himself accountable but considers others in the organization accountable as well. Fifth, the leader is able to manage different kinds of resources, efficiently. 

Although Wilson (2016) focused on the steward leadership approach, to evaluate the approach, there is a need to understand that no approach can be evaluated in isolation. Thus, there is a need to do a comparative analysis with another theory to analyze the effectiveness. The analysis is done by comparing steward theory with servant theory. There are several differences between servant leadership and steward leadership: First difference is related to the strategy; while a servant leader focuses on meeting the highest priority needs of others and developing them as individuals, a steward leader focuses on the objectives of different stakeholders by managing resources and people to achieve growth. The second difference is related to the style of leadership; while servant leadership is participative, steward leadership can be participative and authoritarian as well (depending on the situation). The third difference is related to the motivation; while a servant leader is focused on service to others, a steward leader is focused on responsibility and authority. The fourth difference is related to the goal of leadership; while a servant leader focuses on empowering others, a steward leader is focused on achieving sustainability in an organization. The fifth difference is related to the characteristics of the leader; while a servant leader is focused on characteristics like awareness, foresight, community, and commitment from the employees, a steward leader focuses on characteristics like accountability, submissiveness, faithfulness, and self-sacrifice. The sixth factor is related to the action plan of the leaders; while a servant leader focuses on ‘servant first leader second’ approach, a steward leader focuses on accomplishing the objectives of the owners and stakeholders (Bell, 2014; Choi, 2014; Gini & Green, 2014).

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