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Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest

Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest

5.0 1
by Peter Block

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NEW EDITION, REVISED AND UPDATED Stewardship was provocative, even revolutionary, when it was first published in 1993, and it remains every bit as relevant and radical today. Most organizations still rely on patriarchy and hierarchy as their core form of governance, stifling initiative and spirit and alienating people from the work they do. Peter Block asserts that a


NEW EDITION, REVISED AND UPDATED Stewardship was provocative, even revolutionary, when it was first published in 1993, and it remains every bit as relevant and radical today. Most organizations still rely on patriarchy and hierarchy as their core form of governance, stifling initiative and spirit and alienating people from the work they do. Peter Block asserts that a fundamental shift in how we distribute power, privilege, and the control of money can transform every part of an organization for the better, and he examines the nitty-gritty of implementing these reforms. This revised and expanded edition includes a new introduction by Block addressing what has and hasn’t changed since the first edition and a new chapter on applying stewardship to the common good of the wider community. This visionary yet pragmatic book is sure to open your mind and change the way you do your job forever.

Editorial Reviews

A synthesis of the enormous literature regarding exponential distribution in 34 essays written by statisticians demonstrating the tractability of the theory and applications. The discussions review conventional areas such as order statistics and their properties, prediction problems, and characterizations, in addition to more sophisticated discussions of exponential regression, bootstrapping method, and applications to survival analysis. For readers interested in initiating a dialogue with the authors, many of the contributors' e-mail addresses are also provided. Includes theorems and tabular illustrations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
“An original and profound new view on how to run organizations…Block transcends all extant leadership literature.”
—Library Journal

“Stewardship is one of those books that permanently changes how you think. It obliterates the wall between good business and ethical business…Get better business results, change the world, and save your soul with a single book.”
—Gifford Pinchot III, cofounder and President, Bainbridge Graduate Institute

“The most insightful analyst of what ails organizations has written a very timely update of his book Stewardship. With America’s newest civic generation, millennials, now flooding the world of work, Block offers a system of governance that captures that generation’s need for ‘service over self-interest.’”
—Morley Winograd, coauthor, with Mike Hais, of Millennial Momentum

“The new edition of Stewardship is an absolute must-read for anyone interested in building sustainable businesses, organizations, and communities. [Block’s] ideas create more engaged organizations, which are better for people, the environment, and business.”
—Brian Camastral, CEO, Riversong Sanctuary; cofounder, BLITS Foundation; and former Global President, Mars Food

“Be forewarned: this is a scary read. In the twenty years I have been engaged in collaborative leadership programs, Peter has been a go-to author for challenging the theory and practice of leadership. In this second edition of Stewardship, Peter leaves us nowhere to hide as he takes an in-depth look at what it truly means to lead from the heart in a culture driven by accountability, metrics, and control. Every ‘yes but’ I raised is countered with examples, metaphors, skillful explanation, case studies, quotes, practical suggestions, and Peter’s trademark creativity and faith in our ability to do the right thing for the common good.”
—Anne J. Udall, Trustee, American Leadership Forum (ALF); former Director, Charlotte Region Chapter, ALF; and Vice Chair, Udall Foundation

“Like Robert Greenleaf before him, Peter Block’s voice is that of a contemporary prophet. This revised edition of Stewardship is one of the best books ever written. It serves as a powerful source of hope and encouragement for servant-leaders everywhere.”
—Larry C. Spears, coauthor of Insights on Leadership, The Spirit of Servant-Leadership, and Fortuitous Encounters

“Over the past forty years, through Stewardship and other seminal works, Peter Block has articulated the course required for effective leadership in the 21st century. If only more managers and leaders from every sector took note and practiced the principles of stewardship—productivity would rise, people would be healthier, local community life would be flourishing, and the spirit of democracy would be enlivened worldwide. His message is that essential and that scalable.”
—Lynn Luckow, President and CEO, LikeMinded.org, and former President and CEO, Craigslist Foundation

“Stewardship is love in action. It is time for our organizations to rethink how they exercise power and control. In our changing country and world, our capacity for stewardship may be what ultimately saves our democracy and models accountability and freedom, in their real sense, for the rest of the world. As usual, Peter Block points us in the direction of our better selves, living out a better future.”
—Sayra Pinto, Principal, Matriz Coaching & Consulting

“This is one of those very rare anomalies: a second edition that is more essential and timely than the first. It spotlights our current dysfunctionalities—such as the literal looting of so many of our organizations by self-serving top levels—and how far we have actually regressed from a pattern of commitment to service and healthy work environments in most corporations. It’s impossible to read this book and then continue to look at current organizational processes as (desirable) ‘business as usual.’”
—Fritz Steele, organizational and environmental consultant and coauthor of The Arrogant Leader

“As with his other books, the second edition of Stewardship forces the reader to rethink basic assumptions about leadership and change in organizations. Peter always challenges my thinking and offers a perspective that I have never found elsewhere. He makes espoused values come alive. Leading in the way Peter describes requires courage, a virtue missing in many of today’s organization leaders. Peter’s unique ability to pinpoint the true source of power and confront the reader in a way that cuts through defenses makes reading Stewardship a true learning and growth experience.”
—Cliff Bolster, Leadership and Learning Consultant, Bolster & Associates, Inc.

“Peter Block is one of the most provocative and iconoclastic thinkers we have on the topics of leadership, business, and organizational design. His insights are still fresh and razor sharp, and he expresses them in a singular, poetic style. The new edition of this foundational text extends the scope of his insights to meet the challenges that have arisen in the last twenty years and shows how to create not just productive and humane workplaces but vibrant communities, an engaged democracy, and a healthy planet.”
—Toni A. Gregory, EdD, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, PhD Program in Interdisciplinary Studies, Union Institute & University

“Peter Block’s second edition of Stewardship is even more provocative than the first edition was twenty years ago because we are more fearful about our economic and personal well-being than ever before. Block helps us see our own complicity and interconnectedness with all that goes on around us and, with this updated edition, will help a new generation learn that the way to find meaning and purpose in life is to form partnerships for the common good, empower each other through human understanding, and together, build competent societies.”
—Frances Strickland, PhD, President, Smith Educational Enterprises

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Welcome OUR TASK IS TO create organizations that work, especially in a world where everything constantly seems up in the air. We know that fundamental change is required. We keep talking about cultural change, but this will not be enough if we stay focused on changing attitudes and skills. No question that beliefs and attitudes need to change, but unless there is also a shift in governance—namely, how we distribute power and privilege and the control of money—the efforts will be more cosmetic than enduring. The need for something different partly grows out of us as individuals. There resides in each of us the desire to more fully integrate our lives. We must feel fragmented, because we talk about ourselves as if we were cats with several lives. “This is my work life,” “This is my personal life,” “This is my spiritual life.” In compartmentalizing our lives, we are constantly setting aside parts of ourselves, even at times giving ourselves away. This fragmentation is also reflected in our organizations. There are all the debates between being people oriented and task oriented, hard-nosed and soft-nosed, values driven and results driven. The central idea of this book, stewardship, has the potential for us to reintegrate parts of ourselves and move beyond the debates in our organizations. In this way, it is a book of reconciliation. Stewardship focuses our attention on aspects of our workplaces that have been most difficult to change: the distribution of power, purpose, and rewards. It is these dimensions of organizations that need to be re-formed if we are to become whole in our efforts to strengthen ourselves. We are each engaged in discrete exercises to help our organizations lose weight, become more flexible, and stay hopeful. We have a program for everything. Cost reduction, continuous improvement, customer service, cycle time, empowerment. Each one seems to meet its goals, yet a major part of our lives stays unchanged. We remain watchful of people who have power over us; we feel that the organization is the creation of someone other than ourselves and that the changes we want to make still need sponsorship and permission from others at a higher level. We need a way of reconciling the promise of our programs with the experience of our day-to-day lives so that the Queen Mary truly changes direction. Stewardship Stewardship is the umbrella idea that promises the means of achieving fundamental change in the way we govern our institutions. Stewardship is to hold something in trust for another. Historically, stewardship was a means to protect a kingdom while those rightfully in charge were away, or, more often, to govern for the sake of an underage king. The underage king for us is the next generation. We choose service over self-interest most powerfully when we build the capacity of the next generation to govern themselves. Stewardship is defined in this book as the choice to preside over the orderly distribution of power. This means giving people at the bottom and the boundaries of the organization choice over how to serve a customer, a citizen, a community. It is the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance. Service The underlying value is about deepening our commitment to service. We have the language of service. We serve our country; we call ourselves a service economy; we choose public service as a profession; we have committed to serve customers. What is missing is the experience of service. Our experience is too often to find ourselves surrounded by self-interest, especially inside our institutions. The ways we govern, manage, and lead are a testimony to self-interest. Authentic service is experienced when these conditions exist: • There is a balance of power. People need to act on their own choices. Acts of compliance do not serve those around us or the larger organization. Dominance also fails. We do a disservice to others when we make decisions for them. Even if we are right. • The primary commitment is to the larger community. Focusing constant attention on the individual or a small team breeds self-centeredness and entitlement. • Each person joins in defining purpose and deciding what kind of culture this organization will become. We diminish others when we define purpose and meaning for them, even if they ask us to do so. • There is a balanced and equitable distribution of rewards. Every level of an organization shares in creating its wealth and expanding its resources. When an organization succeeds in its marketplace, money and privilege need to be more evenly distributed among levels if our commitment to service is to have any integrity. Without these elements, no genuine service is performed. These notions of service and stewardship, however, are not the basis of how we currently run our organizations. They do reflect some of our intentions about how to govern, but not the reality. Some of the elements are often in place. We frequently see innovative pay systems, self-managing teams, total quality efforts, partnerships, customer attentiveness, and inverted pyramids. They are rarely, however, put together in a pervasive governance strategy. As a result, we end up too often working against ourselves. We share control with the left hand and take it back with the right. One moment we are on the fast track toward participation, and the next moment we are instituting more controls. The new technology makes it even easier to control workers. We can electronically track their movements, their work patterns, who they are communicating with, how much they are working even when they are out of sight. Supervision has almost turned into surveillance. The intent of this book is to translate these ideas about power, community, purpose, and privilege into a whole strategy for governing our companies and institutions. Stewardship then becomes a governance strategy. It is the search for the means of experiencing partnership and empowerment and service. This book offers a guide map for this search. Discovering how to govern, to ensure the well-being and survival of our organizations, is how we create meaning in what we do. This is the spiritual stream we stand in. Stewardship encompasses concerns of the spirit, but it also must pass the test of the marketplace. It must be practical and economical. It must be low cost and good for customers and communities as well as employees. Our organizations constantly stand on this intersection of spirit, community, and the marketplace. The unique intention of this book is to offer the means by which there can be a reconciliation of what is good for the soul, good for a customer, and good for the health of the larger institution. This book, then, is for those of us living questions of purpose and survival. It is not written from the point of view of consultants, experts in managing change, and experienced practitioners worried about changing others. The book takes the viewpoint of core workers, staff people, supervisors, managers, and executives. It is for frontline workers and people in a support role. People who are in the middle of it all. It is for activists in school reform, health care, and government under fire, as well as businesses in the private sector. It is for people who have decided that their organization needs reforming and have doubts about whether what they are doing now is enough. This book has three parts plus a new introduction, which presents the current backdrop for the issues the book deals with. Part I, “Trading Your Kingdom for a Horse,” is about the basic concept and the promise of stewardship and the limitations of leadership. It dramatizes the choices we face and the high wire we dance upon. Part II, “The Redistribution of Power, Purpose, and Wealth,” gets practical. It is for the engineer in each of us that asks at some point in every conversation, “Enough theory—what does it look like? What do we do differently tomorrow, first thing, at 7 a.m.?” I don’t know why the engineer in us gets up so early. In this second part resides the vision of stewardship in action. Special attention is given to staff groups like finance and human resources. Part III, “The Triumph of Hope Over Experience,” goes into some of the details about how to get there. What is a logical sequence for thinking about the reform process? It is about how to handle cynics and victims and people who do not want to take the trip. It often does not matter what the trip is; there are just some people who do not want to take it. The idea of communal stewardship can also be applied to larger community concerns about the social responsibility of institutions. This is explored in chapter 16, “Stewardship for the Common Good.” There are growing questions in society about the relationship between our institutions and the environment, the disparity in wealth, our health, and other social concerns that once were questions on the margin but now may have to do with our collective survival and well-being. A comment about the book’s design: Accompanying the main text are inserts of anecdotes, quotes, and key sentences from the text itself. Taken together, these are intended as a book within a book. If the main text gets slow, you always have the inserts and quotes to chew on. This treatment is also a way of balancing the rhythm of the text with voices more profound than mine. And you will notice key words or phrases set off on certain pages. This is to visually open up the book and also to let you know where you are; if you should want to return to a particular spot, they are there to help you find your way back. At the end of the book are references to books and other works that support the ideas presented here. I also want to acknowledge the important contribution to this book of Joel Henning. His fingerprints are everywhere. We were committed and cranky friends, thought partners, coconspirators, and fools together during the time when the ideas were taking shape. He wrote the original foreword to the book, which I have removed, as the times have changed. Joel always found the language to get to the heart of the matter and the courage to lean into any kind of breeze. He is over ten years gone now, but his work and humanity live on in all he touched. Many hands touching the production of a book make a bigger difference than might be immediately obvious. I appreciate Steve Piersanti for the encouragement of this edition and the Berrett-Koehler staff that brought the book into being. The copyediting was done by Elissa Rabellino. I am so grateful for the way she honored my voice and non-Chicago style of writing. She suffered too many sentence fragments and yet in every instance stood firmly for the readability and clarity of the ideas. It is just a better book because she touched it. Same with Leigh McLellan, who designed the interior of this edition. She has a wonderful and delicate eye for design and keeping the pages open and welcoming, with enough visual energy to encourage the reader to hang in there when the writing doesn’t do its job. For me, the look of the book is as important as its content, and much thanks to Leigh for creating a sense of wholeness out of all the type, spacing, and ornaments. Finally, a word about the painting that graces the cover. It is a painting of an archer by John Nieto, a well-known contemporary American artist. The painting speaks to the best intentions of this book. The archer’s feet are so planted as to be almost a part of the ground. Practical and connected to reality. The bow and the arrow are aimed at the heavens. The arrow carries within it clear intentions; the sky is a place of infinite view and vision. The colors of deep purple and fierce yellow offer a hint of what is unknown; they speak to adventure. These are at the heart of the offering that is this book. All of the above by way of welcome. Cincinnati November 2012 Introduction to the Second Edition What Has Changed? REVISING A BOOK after twenty years is an occasion to reflect on what has changed in that time. There is, of course, the wish that the world had gotten better. You want to believe that there is less suffering, more kindness, and, for all peoples, a world of more possibility. This wish to see progress is even stronger considering the practice of stewardship, a clearly idealistic and spirit-based undertaking. Stewardship as used here is meant to be a choice to (1) act in service of the long run, and (2) act in service to those with little power. In historical terms, this has meant to care for the well-being of an unborn king or the next generation. For today’s world, it translates into creating accountable and committed workplaces without resorting to increased control or compliance as governing strategies. This is not an easy assignment, considering the still-dominant paradigm of leadership, which is about good parenting and its stronger cousin, patriarchy. Patriarchal leadership, the common practice in most organizations, acts in service of the short term and works in the interest of those with high power, not low power. Stewardship, then, is an intention to distribute power widely, especially to those at the lowest levels of the organization. It calls us to organize workplaces based on relatedness and collaboration as an alternative to the bell-curve ideology of competitiveness that is used to rationalize patriarchy. Stewardship also is a call for a purpose larger than today’s drive for material gain, and it pays attention to supporting the common good for our communities, the earth, and people outside the usual cast of stakeholders. This takes us a step away from the individualism and self-interest that is so prevalent. Against this backdrop, here are reflections on developments over the last twenty years that make stewardship an even more urgent form of governance. It’s a Digital World The biggest change in organizational life is that we have been beamed into all the joys and sorrows of the virtual and digital world. It is a romanticized world, riding on the wings of speed and frictionless transactions with no human beings involved. It is mesmerizing to grasp the world in a handheld device, much smarter than we will ever be. Technology is credited with bringing the world closer together, spreading democracy, changing the nature of business, supplying round-the-clock connectivity. Geography has been made obsolete. Here are some noteworthy aspects of this life in a work context: • Workers are members of teams made up of people they have never been in a room with. This has given rise to the question “How do we build a team that never or rarely meets face-to-face?” • We have willingly given up the forty-hour workweek. We are online and in touch and reachable most of our waking hours. If you ask people to park their cell phones at the door, 40 percent say that this is not possible. • We work at home. Our bedroom has become our office. We can work in our pajamas most of the time. This allows us to move our residence anywhere, supposedly take better care of our family, and have more control over our time. We can also go to school at home, so our dining room becomes our classroom. What is new is the wedding of futurism to what might be called “virtualism”: a vision of the future within which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. —Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft • With a device in our pocket and plugs in our ears, we can have background music or be in phone contact all the time. You go to public places and you see that most people have something in their ear and are somewhere else. There is no longer a need to be here now. You can go anywhere but here, anytime you wish. • We all participate in this electronic world, one where speed is a value in and of itself. If something is quicker, it is attractive. If we are quicker, we are attractive. Slow food is considered a revolution. Fast food, a value proposition. • Controlling costs is now the dominant value for most organizations, replacing the priority once given to the customer and the employee. We can now outsource most every job and function (except top management) in order to reduce labor and benefit costs. We cut down on travel costs and training on the rationale that current audio and video technology approximates the sights and sounds of being in the room together in real time. The virtual world is sold on these features. A promise of more freedom to the individual. Work at home, learn at will, and control your time. Get information you need on demand. Be a global citizen. All true. Big change in twenty years. What Is Good for Business Is Good for the World A second major shift is that the private sector has fully come into its own power to name the debate and create the context for what matters. It is the dominant sector. In other times, the church and the military set the tone for the society. Once it was the government and concern for the social good. Not so now. The lens for assessing our common interests and institutional well-being is the business lens. It is the focusing device. This defines the conversation: Government is primarily assessed on its waste. The social-service sector is encouraged to merge, eliminate overlap, increase leverage and productivity. The private sector sings, “Why can’t a school be like a business?” Our answer to the “public education problem” is to institute variable pay for performance and stronger measurements as tools for reform. Pure business plays. Intuition and experience have been replaced by evidence. Evidence-based medicine, evidence-based learning, evidence-based decision making. All business terms. This language and reverence for business seeps into all conversation about a better future. We are also looking for businesspeople to run every institution: the hospital, the school, the prison, the government, social services, the church, even the Girl Scouts. We consider business success the ultimate credential. This is not an argument against business, for businesses are the stabilizing institutions in most communities. They contribute to communities in many more ways than creating jobs. They are the institutions most open to change and adaptation to the new world. They also bring to the community talented and committed people. Businesses provide some of our best foreign policy too; the globalization of business puts a crack in the class structure, has fought racism, and helped create a middle class where none existed. The point is not to paint business as a villain. The point is to recognize its power to frame the culture, to frame the context for how we choose to be together. In recognizing the power of the business perspective, we see how it affects not only the way we work but also who we are becoming. It defines our new heroes. The contemporary hero is now the entrepreneur. A single soul with faith in an idea that reinvents a marketplace, disrupts a whole industry, takes everything to scale, creates new needs, and provides an escort service into the future. This inventive instinct can also take over domains once reserved for God. We clone sheep today, humans tomorrow. We are in the process of creating synthetic versions of aliveness; we send avatars to meetings, watch a screen more hours than we can count, create video games to simulate experience. In all this we are witnessing the second creation of the world, as if to say, “Thank you, God, for your hard work and the good beginning; thank you for providing a good role model—we can take it from here.” This economic usurpation of God produces a certain amount of guilt, so now we put the word social in front of entrepreneur. The social entrepreneur speaks to our wish to integrate our surrender to consumption and materialism with the universal desire to do good in the world. Side Effects These two concurrent forces—the growing virtual and digital world and the preeminence of the business perspective—have their grip on us. They live on a set of assumptions so deeply embedded in our consciousness that we rarely question them and so cannot ever solve the fundamental issues that keep us and our organizations in patriarchy’s power. These assumptions have a cost. What we see in the last two decades is increasing isolation, anxiety, fear, and concentration of wealth and power. This reality is what calls us to stay interested in the idea of stewardship. The point of this book. In this journey to the stewardship possibility, we can note some ways in which these cultural forces are shaping our lives: • Electronic connection, while touted as valuable for building relationships, has the effect of isolating us more deeply. Take Phil, a friend who works at home for a large technology company. This allows him to move around the country, following his wife’s career. The price he pays is that his time on the computer is minutely monitored by the company. The normal workweek is fifty hours, but he is expected to deliver fifty-eight billable hours a week. • Phil works in a world where there is little travel budget for him to be in the room with other employees or to see how what he has designed is being used. There is no budget for his development. The digital revolution that promises more freedom also impinges on our privacy and provides infinitely more control than we thought possible. It creates more instrumental relationships. Thus the isolation. • Stewardship requires a level of trust and relatedness and is about putting choice close to the edge. The electronic world shares information widely, but that does not necessarily mean it builds relationships. It may sustain them once built, but something is lost by not being in the room with other human beings. If we want to decentralize choice and power, the virtual world has ushered in vast surveillance capacity. Jobs that once held some privacy, like driving for a living, are now monitored closely. Your workstation can now be monitored from afar. The virtual world also has eliminated incidental contact, like passing in a hall, eating in a lunchroom, chatting before and after meetings, or going in and out of work. These peripheral moments, captured in sideways glances, are what build social capital; unplanned, face-to-face encounters encourage the informality where trust and connection are built. • E-mail and social media are another substitute for seeing each other. We have come to believe that we are communicating with each other when we send an e-mail. Maybe, maybe not. Facebook creates the illusion of having five hundred friends. We can exchange photographs, be up to date with the smallest details of our lives, but even so, we are still watching a screen. The handheld device becomes an extension of our arm and has made eye contact a rarity among strangers. We have confused an amazing information gadget with a tool of relatedness. • The divide between personal life and work life has become blurred. We all have a major concern about work/life balance, how to balance work life and personal life, which means we are way off balance, and not in the direction of too much personal life. If as stewards we care for the common good and well-being of a community, yielding so much sovereignty to the workplace makes that care harder to act on. • The current business narrative is fundamentally one of scarcity. No amount of earnings, no amount of productivity improvement, is enough. Even in good economic times the narrative is one of fierce competition, more cost reduction, grow or die. One effect is increased fear at work. People seem more afraid of their bosses now than twenty years ago. The fear is joined by a schizophrenic sense of enormous business growth and success at the same time as individual earnings and well-being are declining or staying flat. Stewardship is a narrative of abundance: it says that what we have is enough, that there are limits to growth, and it expands our field of vision to care for something larger than profitability. • The rush of globalization destabilizes our sense of place and security. While globalization has the advantages of increasing our cultural competence, increasing our understanding of other cultures, and providing a positive kind of foreign policy, it moves our center of gravity into unknown territory. Being global citizens can cost us our sense of place, our stability, and the experience of knowing where we belong. Stewardship relies on trust, familiarity, and continuity to do its work. • We are consumed by our anxiety about success. Parents are more worried about the employment future of their children. We have tiger moms and helicopter parents who want their children to win in the competitive world we have constructed. Home has become a child-management-services bureau where every day is scheduled for positive outcomes. In some cases, when you hire an employee, you are also hiring the person’s parental management team; one day you might have to answer to his mom or dad on why you rated their son only above average. Stewardship supports the assumptions of a cooperative world; it replaces competition with collaboration, self-interest with service. It asks us to care more about meaning and impact than about the traditional concern for upward mobility. • Finally, we continue to be disappointed in our leaders, which means our expectations of them are beyond fulfillment. We seek transformational leaders and relational leaders. We want our mentors, and everyone who can afford it wants a coach. We still love leadership; we just want it to be more benevolent. This focus on leaders tends to centralize accountability instead of distributing it. It says that leaders are cause and employees are effect. Stewardship inverts this and suggests that employees are the central point and bosses need to earn their right to govern. Goods We Can Build Upon All these forces create some positive counterforces that support and reinforce the shift in our thinking toward stewardship. For example: • The longing for hope, stability, and optimism is as strong as ever. In the world of religion, while participation in the traditional churches has declined in the West, the emergent churches here have strong growth. They make fewer demands to embrace specific beliefs and focus more on creating a successful lifestyle and being part of a community. They give their members an opportunity for connection that has disappeared from the neighborhood and the workplace. Around the world we see growing resistance to the materialism of the West. It is frightening in some of its forms but is clearly a reaction to witnessing the disruption of tradition and culture in the West. • The environmental movement is touching our lives and our organizations. At a surface level, every business has turned green, at least in its advertising. Government is now also turning green, and proud of it. This is a good thing. This means that conversation about the environment is commonplace. The social responsibility of business is on the table. All these support the steward. • There are always organizations that strive to create an alternative to the traditional command-and-control cultures. Most high-tech companies seek less social distance between levels. They create more informal ways of being together, make the office more like home, and encourage sociability. They are valuing more ownership from employees and more decisions at lower levels. Some older major companies, like Mars and Crown Equipment, still value the importance of employees, appreciate the importance of learning, and work to keep trust strong by using high engagement and many of the stewardship practices described in this book. • One response to the increased isolation and cultural force of the digital world is the growth of localism. This is a face-to-face, close-to-home effort. It is the decision to work, shop, and play within walking distance. Given the downsizing and loss of faith in larger institutions, the choice may not be entirely voluntary, but it has become a strong social movement, a convergence of the food, environmental, and anticonsumer movements. Cooperative enterprises are in a growth mode. Local agriculture, neighborhood building, and the desire to buy less and create more on our own are all on the rise. Just one example is that at this writing there are more than thirty cohousing efforts in the United States alone. In cohousing, fifteen or more families buy a common property, and on this property they have private houses but also common space for eating, raising children, and feeling connected to others close at hand. It is the re-creation of the village and community life that the industrial and information ages have set asunder. • Finally, as always, there is a large group of young people seeking something more than economic success. They want to serve society. They are open to larger purposes for an organization than being successful in a marketplace, necessary as this might be. They are choosing stewardship and service over self-interest. The hope of this new edition of this book is that the ideas and practice of stewardship are still a useful framework for thriving in the complexity of this modern age. Stewardship provides a spiritual, values-based anchor in an era that constantly drives us in the direction of speed, control, and efficiency. Stewardship is an alternative way to create a future that transcends the pressure of lower costs and short-term results. It holds a restorative set of values, centered on creating high performance by putting the future in the hands of each member of an organization. It is a voice for the common good as an answer to the growing individualism of the culture. If the idea of stewardship is elusive, it is because this idea changes with the times, and it is not formulaic and so gives great latitude on the form it takes. It also suffers from ambiguity and having no definitive template or compelling testimony or evidence. Sorry about that. The good news is that it invites you to cocreate the idea and practice and thus imagine its possibilities, and make sense and meaning of it in your own way, out of your own context. Which is what we have to do with our lives anyway.

Meet the Author

Peter Block is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed to build the skills outlined in his books. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Organization Development Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award and ASTD’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning, and was named to Training Magazine’s HRD Hall of Fame. He is the author or coauthor of eight books.

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Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
StrategicLearner More than 1 year ago
"Stewardship is accountability without control or compliance." (Peter Block)    This is one dangerous statement ... For whatever reasons, I did not read Peter Block's work on servant leadership when it was first published in 1993 and quickly became a best-seller. As I am finally introduced to his powerful and unsettling ideas, I wonder how it ever became so popular. His message seems almost revolutionary and definitely has the seeds of great upheaval within. Consider Block's main messages, which I am experiencing so far as: *Leadership (as we understand and experience it) is not the answer, but part of what gets in the way. *To do good, we have to give up control, which is at the heart of most management thinking. *Compliance is not the goal, because people need to "act on their own choices." *Genuine service includes "a balanced and equitable distribution of rewards". Block has revised and updated Stewardship to mark the official relaunch of this fascinating book. Based on what I have read so far, Stewardship will be a book to enjoy, share, and return to often. Block's goal, in writing this book is audacious in a very exciting way: "... to translate these ideas about power, community, purpose, and privilege into a whole strategy for governing our companies and institutions." Block is no wide-eyed dreamer. His head may be up there in the clouds, but he recognizes the reality of the marketplace. To create a true service orientation throughout an organization is not that difficult. To do so and keep the lights on and the people paid is not. With the emphasis on service, this man is speaking to my heart ... Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review. My opinions are my own and freely given without regard or restriction. Peter Block is a global bestselling author and consultant. His work is about empowerment, stewardship, chosen accountability, and the reconciliation of community. He is a partner in Designed Learning, a training company that offers workshops designed by Peter to build the skills outlined in his books. His bestselling book, Stewardship has just been re-released in a 20th Anniversary, Revised and Extended Edition with a foreword by Steven Piersanti.