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Make it Green, Make it Clean

Stewardship delegation: the easiest way to leading a successful team

There exists a type of leadership that people smarter than me call stewardship delegation. I’ve found it to be extremely powerful in my attempts to lead and encourage other people to grow.

Green and Clean

In this video, Stephen Covey calls this style of leadership “Green & Clean”, and it is a great example of his excellence in this regard. Simply put, this form of leadership is asking someone to take ownership of the task, or rather, being the “steward” that ensures it gets done and done well.

It’s not asking that they do it themselves, but rather entrusting them to take ownership and responsibility, and use creativity and ingenuity to complete the task through any necessary means.

It’s not new. It’s not rocket science. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.

What is stewardship?

If this requires them to delegate the task to someone else, or subcontract it, then so be it as long they’ve taken on full responsibility for the outcome.

I’m not concerned with method or style (although if there’s a company process I encourage them to follow it) but more that they understand I am holding them personally responsible for it getting done.

CEOs do this frequently: give an assignment to their CFO with the expectation that it’s to be done on deadline, under budget, and with an output that was requested or better. They don’t expect them to build the actual spreadsheets or generate the reports, just that they take responsibility for the generation of the output.

This is how you grow people, this is how you lead people, this is how you give people the ability to do what needs to get done to answer the clarion call, if you will.

You encourage them to use their own judgment and manage their team in a way that allows maximum growth, while still maximizing productivity and coordination.

The King doesn’t care how the pawns advance to the enemy, he trusts that they do it. (Don’t try to apply this example too broadly…)

You can’t “give and forget”

Stewardship delegation necessitates discipline on the part of the leader.

The temptation (as outlined by Covey quite well) is, as soon as things appear to be getting off track, to jump back on board and take the reins. The consequence of this is that you’re training people not to take ownership, that it really doesn’t matter because once things get tough, big dog will fly in and take care of it. Instead, delegate results — this method is what works most effectively and maximally over time.

If you remember the rope scene from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Rises, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If a team member knows that the failure or success of a project rests entirely on their shoulders, they will plan, delegate, and work effectively in such a way to ensure that everything produces the desired result.

And before you know it, they’re running the project in the same way that you run your company/division/branch; they’ve learned to delegate stewardship themselves.

Team members only succeed when they have to rely on their own skills, without reassurance from you.

Looking over the shoulder

The best way, however, to stifle creativity and retard the learning process is to “look over the shoulder” of the one doing the work.

If you are constantly checking how the work is going, what progress they’re making, or what systems they’re using, they will be afraid to make mistakes. Someone who knows they are under constant surveillance will not act the way they normally do, and will not try new ways to solve an old problem knowing it may be embarrassing for them if it doesn’t work.

If you truly want to help your team grow and enjoy their jobs, you need to let go.

Actual delegation requires you to trust in those to whom you give stewardship.

Not only does “looking of the shoulder” stifle creativity, it shows a lack of trust in them and their method.

Does the driver lean out the side of the car to make sure the tires are being changed properly?

A leader’s best quality is his or her vision.

Always keep in mind that a leader’s job is to grow people, or specifically: lead people, not just get “stuff done”.

This makes for a stronger team, but also will lead to improved performance and efficiency in addition to increasing your sphere of influence.

So, as much as possible, I try and teach my people that when I’ve assigned them a task, I’m giving them the outcome as the assignment, not the method. I don’t expect them to be hands on with the work but rather they take ownership in getting the work done and done right. What matters here is that they feel ownership for the end result, and THAT is what stewardship delegation is all about.

Aaron Webber is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of Webber Investments LLC, as well as a Managing Partner at Madison Wall Agencies.

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Aaron Webber

Aaron Webber

Chairman and CEO, Webber Investments. Partner at Idea Booth/BGO.