Absolutely. Leaders are definitely responsible for the financial performance of the organization. And their responsibility goes much broader than that. Responsibility is proportional to authority – and the more a senior leader you are, the more responsibility you have and the more responsibility you have. Responsibility over finances, performance, processes – and, most important of all, people. Make sense?
Let’s put a different, and I think, deeper twist on “responsibility”. When coaching senior leaders about managing their power, I find the frame of “stewardship” to be more profound. Let’s start with a couple non-business examples.
Loaning our car. We only loan our vehicles to people we trust. People who will return the car in the same condition as when we hand the keys over. When it’s a new car, we hope it will not come back with it’s first dent – or even its first scratch.
A more important example – our children. Any parent knows that when they give their child to the care of a family member, a baby-sitter, a daycare center – that there is a significant amount of concern and anxiety. Will those individuals take care – really good care – of my child? Will my child be safe? See good examples? Learn the right things? We want caretakers to care about our child.
What about organizations? They are made up of things – analogous to our vehicles. And people – people who are just as precious to those who love them as our children are to us. We are entrusted as leaders to be more than responsible. We need to be caretakers of all those resources and our people. We need to be careful stewards.
Stewardship of an organizing is the role of leaders who ensure that the organization is successful. Who manage risk with careful consideration. Who realize that every decision affects the individuals and the relationships in their organization.
And just like the concern over a safe and nurturing environment for our children, we want a positive, growth-filled environment for our people. We are stewards of the culture of our businesses, non-profits, schools and firms. We can make working better – in many ways. We can make working better by generating great products and services. We can make working better by being more profitable. We can make working better by creating an environment, and culture where people thrive. A culture where creativity and innovation happen everyday. Where the meaning – the purpose – of what our organization is clear and compelling and people know they make a difference. A culture where people treat each other with care and respect.
Once we have achieved an organization, and culture like that, we need deeply appreciate it. We will want to continue to provide stewardship for the precious environment. That is what leadership is all about.