Heroes and Stewards… Leadership During Transition

Times of transition are tricky. We know in order to evolve, we need to make changes. But changing requires, well… change, and that is not easy.  

Seasons of transition will often magnify what we are made of and after the dust settles, we will either be known for our strengths or our weaknesses. So, the question to ask is, “How do I maximize my strengths and be most effective as a leader?”   

When we first approach a new project or idea, we, out of necessity, tend to take on what’s considered a hero persona. We have the vision and direction for what is coming, and our staff are looking to us to lead the charge. We give direction and our team responds because they need a leader to bear the brunt of the burden of change. While honorable and needed, the role of the hero is short-lived.

However, after the initial shock has worn off, necessity dictates that we ourselves transition to less of a hero and into more of a steward. By contrast, a steward is a caretaker, typically driven by the collective will of our team. The role of the steward is where the real work of transformation really takes place. It is where everyone settles into the day-to-day work of seeing the transitional process through to the end. In this role, we recognize the elements that need cultivating in order to see them flourish and the ones whose time has passed. As a steward, we take what we have and help it grow. 

Here’s the thing, we become the most effective leaders during times of transition by exercising three key points; self-awareness, self-discipline, and teamwork.  

 

Self-Awareness

During times of transition leaders will almost always rely on skills and strategies that have worked for them in the past. Afterall, we love our comfort zones, right? While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with utilizing proven strategies, many times new vision brings with it a realization that old ways of doing won’t produce new and fresh results.  

This is where self-awareness comes into play. It is vital to the success of every transition for you, as a leader, to know who you are and what you are truly capable of. Self-awareness is about knowing your preferences, tendencies, triggers, capacity, and knowledge level. Infact, it’s just as much about knowing what you can do as it is about knowing what you can’t do. But one important aspect of self-awareness is having the right perspective and recognizing where you’ve succumbed to outside conditioning. For example, don’t make the mistake of automatically categorizing the things you can’t do as weaknesses. What you see as weakness isn’t always the flaw you think it is  

We all applaud each other for our strengths and talents, but we have been conditioned to be ashamed of our areas of weakness.  We tend to look at weaknesses and think we must fight against them and conquer them somehow.  While endeavoring to improve oneself is a noble pursuit, we have to be careful not to waste valuable time, energy, and resources trying to become something we are not intended to be. A leader who is confident in their strengths and their weaknesses can utilize both for the good of their team.   

The self-aware leader does not try to be a hero! 

But even when you step into the role of a steward self-awareness is greatly needed, because it’s easy for stewards to fall into places of diminished empowerment. The day-to-day work can become cyclical and monotonous, and if the steward is not careful, they will rely heavily on their comfort zones which won’t produce the new vision needed to see season of transitions through to success. 

A leader with self-awareness will know when to be the hero, and when to be the steward, and how to wield both personas most effectively in any situation.  

 

Self-Discipline 

As leaders our ability to adapt during seasons of transition will heavily depend on whether or not we are able to let go of old mindsets and embrace a new approach. This is especially true when you have heroic tendencies.  

Self-discipline empowers us to not just take action but take the correct action at the correct time. Everyone loves a hero, but a hero who doesn’t know when to stop fighting becomes reckless, unstable, and untrustworthy. Natural heroes can find the stewardship period of transitions tedious and mundane. Without a significant amount of self-discipline to pair it with, the end goal will be undermined and short-sighted in an effort to move onto something new.  

Those with natural tendencies toward stewardship will need self-discipline to keep them engaged in the high-functioning environment transitional seasons can create. The tendency to back away from the challenges of the heroic can be strong. It will take self-discipline to keep the steward steady and focused during these times. 

Transformation is not a fast and easy process. It takes time and commitment. When done well, a transition will strengthen your team and support growth and overall wellbeing. When the process is rushed, you end up with only surface-level results.

 

Teamwork 

“A successful person finds the right place for himself. But a successful leader finds the right place for others.” – John C. Maxwell 

 The best leaders have a team of people around them who are happy to thrive in their given roles. In order to solve a problem, we have to recognize our share of the responsibility. And sometimes, our share of the responsibility means putting the right people in the right places to inspire greatness. Each person on the team is able to reach their potential because they are allowed to. As a result, the team as a whole performs at a higher level and produces higher quality results. 

A good leader, a good hero, and a good steward will all recognize their need for a strong team around them. Heroes wouldn’t get very far without the reinforcement of the ones willing to fight on their behalf. Stewards wouldn’t be able to sustain the long season of maintenance without people around them to provide logistical support. Leaders can’t lead if they don’t have people willing to follow.  

If we want ourselves, our agencies, and our teams to flourish, we have to set the expectation and environment for success.  

Seasons of transition can make you or break you as a leader. Be aware of both your strengths and weaknesses and be courageous in the face of new challenges.

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