by Kent Ingle
Your life is created one day at a time. Every person on the planet is limited by the same time constraints. We each get 24 hours in 60-minute blocks that come in 60-second intervals. So why do some people seem to be able to accomplish and achieve so much more than others? Why do some people appear to conquer the world while others seem to work hard but never really accomplish anything?
The answer is straightforward—life stewardship. If you want to accomplish great things in your life, you must dedicate yourself to the disciplines that will leverage your divine design to change the world in and around you. You can’t lead until you understand stewardship.
Leadership begins and ends with life stewardship.
When most people hear the word stewardship, they think of one of two things. Either they think of environmental conservation or a church who wants to grow their giving. I want to challenge you to consider another definition. I want to challenge you to reconsider another perspective on stewardship altogether.
A steward is someone who takes care of something valuable which is owned by someone else. That can be money, but it also includes things like time, skills, and health. I believe everyone has been gifted with a divine design. You have a gift to offer the world that is special, unique, and meaningful. That gift was placed within you at the moment you came into being.
It’s your responsibility to develop that gift over time. This is where disciplined living comes into play. When you systematically learn, grow, and expand, you enhance your level of influence on the people, groups, and communities in which you do life. It’s only through a disciplined life that you can harness the full potential of your divine design so you can ultimately leverage it to benefit others in the way it was originally intended.
Disciplined living also protects you from burning up and burning out. It affords you time for rest, reflection, growth, and development to ensure you have the endurance necessary to bring about a significant change in the world. Success is not necessarily being the strongest, smartest, or fastest. It is often about having the capacity to stay in the game longer than anyone else.
Life stewardship is hard. Just like leadership.
If life stewardship sounds like work, that’s because it is. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing though. In fact, living within the context of life stewardship will truly afford you the adventure of your dreams. Adventures are full of ups and downs, successes and failures, moments of overcoming and times of setbacks. That’s what abundant living is all about!
So what does life stewardship have to do with leadership? Let me explain:
1. Leadership begins within you.
If you aren’t stewarding your mind, soul, and body, your leadership window will be short lived, and you won’t be able to accomplish all that you have the potential to do. If you can’t lead yourself, you’ll never be able to lead others.
2. Leadership is a process, not a destination.
Life stewardship never ends. It’s ongoing because you never “arrive.” This is why disciplined living is so vitally important.
3. Leadership is about outcomes, not activity.
Stewards are ultimately responsible to the owner for what has been left to them to oversee. The implication is that you deliver growth on whatever you have been given to manage. Good leadership always has a multiplying effect on the outcome.
4. Leadership is a relentless effort to develop others into leaders.
Stewarding your life gives you the capacity to teach others to steward their own—both in example and through instruction.
The idea of leadership means different things to different people. Very few people see leadership through the lens of life stewardship. It’s not that I expect people to use that phrase. It’s one I have developed in my learning and teaching. But the concepts are universal—and the gaps in practice are real.
Instant results rarely lead to lasting impact.
The problem I have with a culture that demands instant results is that it flies in the face of a lifetime of stewarding your divine design. It seems the new “holy grail” is landing on the next “hot idea” and making it big. I’m delighted that happens for some people. But you can’t change companies, cultures, and communities with a big bang.
Dramatic short-term results should be celebrated, but they are just part of the journey. The gift that is within you—the reason I need you to lead and lead strong—is important enough to develop over a lifetime. It’s not exciting to think about decades of dedication to personal and professional development.
But the truth is there is a lot about leadership that isn’t that exciting. You are the first person to get up and usually the last one to leave. Critical decisions are often known to leaders well before they are shared with others. And accountability rests first with the leader than anyone else. That’s not fun stuff, but it is leadership.
Life stewardship is a lot like leadership because leadership is stewardship at its core. Healthy leaders are healthy individuals first. That doesn’t mean they are perfect or without fault. That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. What it does mean is that they are relentless in their pursuit to make an undeniable difference and impact in the world. It never happens fast enough, but the rewards are well worth enduring the distance between now and next.
You have one life to live—just like the rest of us. How will you spend it?
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.