The Importance of Stewardship in Leadership

Derrick Burress
Derrick Burress
High School Principal; M.S. in Education
‘Stewardship’ on a yellow background surrounded by icons and shapes.

When you think of the word steward, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Beginning my career as a history teacher, I have always looked at a steward as someone who is entrusted with something that belongs to someone else. For example, when the Lord of a castle was away, they left his steward behind to tend to all essential functions from property management, to finances, to defense of the manor. The good and wise steward would joyfully and dutifully fulfill this obligation and garnered much trust and admiration from those who gave the duty.

So how does the wise steward from history factor into the wise steward of leadership in an educational setting? I believe that we — employees, educators, leaders, and influencers in an educational setting — have the opportunity to take on multiple stewardships.

I will review each of these areas of stewardship that we are expected to fulfill when serving as an educator leader. Each of these areas is an important factor in becoming an effective steward of educational leadership. However, each of you may see a higher priority in one area over another. I ask that as you read this and as the year begins, you reflect upon them and try to strengthen your own stewardship as it relates to your students, staff, school, and community.

Stewardship of Students

First and foremost, the most important thing we are entrusted with is our students. What does it mean to be a steward for students? Our communities trust us with their students for 180 days a year. However, more importantly, parents trust us with their children! We need to always ask ourselves the following daily questions:

  1. Is what we are doing in the best interest of students?
  2. Would you entrust your child with our instructors?
  3. Are we making an impact on these children’s lives?

We should never take the responsibility of stewardship of other people’s children lightly. Education is a calling; being a wise steward of students is a responsibility that is accompanied by passion, enthusiasm, and joy.

Stewardship of Influence

Educators have a remarkable amount of influence over their students, and educational leaders have the same influence over their staff. We are entrusted to use that influence in such a way that our instructional teams can help our students become productive members of society. We have all heard stories of educators telling students that they are not college material or shouldn’t do something because they don’t have the right skill set. Words matter, and misusing words is being a poor steward of influence. Look to these daily questions to ensure you are stewarding your influence well:

  1. Is my influence helping instructors be more effective?
  2. Would I be motivated with my words?
  3. How can my influence help shape my staff in a way that builds our school culture?

We need to use our influence to lift our teachers up so that they can do the same for our students. Consciously choose to lead staff down a path of success. Look to positives – not negatives – of your team and students. Stewardship of influence is a powerful tool, so use it wisely and lead staff to obtainable goals.

Steward of Relationships

Relationships are a fundamental building block of leadership. As leaders, we are entrusted to build and maintain relationships with many stakeholders. First and foremost, we must build relationship with our students. Building professional, meaningful relationships with kids makes the entire educational process easier for all of us. Get to know your students, relate to them, and build them up.

We also must build relationships with our peers and faculty. We are all here for each other and our kids. Let’s encourage one another and remember that our weaknesses are others’ strengths. Learn from each other and grow.

The wise steward of relationships works with parents. Make contact and share successes so that when a failure happens, you have formed a relationship and can move forward together. Look to these questions as you steward leadership through relationship:

  1. What are my weaknesses and how can my relationship strengthen those weaknesses?
  2. Can my strengths help those around me to be better?
  3. How can this relationship make me a better leader?

An educational leader can utilize stewardship of relationship in valuable ways. Leaders are most productive when building relationships. It is hard for anyone to be effective without actively pursuing growth in this area. We are not on an island all by ourselves, but we are here for each other and our students.

Being a steward of educational leadership takes effort. We have all been entrusted with so many responsibilities that it might seem overwhelming at times. Trust in yourself to make wise decisions. Trust in yourself to be a wise steward, and remember, the wise steward leaves the things they are entrusted with in better shape than they were given.

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