Friday, March 02, 2007

A little running and a lot of Stewardship

I have a cold. I'm not complaining though - it's the first in at least a year - I know for sure that I haven't had one since I had surgery last April. That's one good long run of healthiness - I guess it had to end sometime.

I ran a solid four miles with Barb yesterday morning, then three at the track with Rick and Tess. They pushed me a little - an 11:22 average pace. I figure that's not too bad since my nose was running almost as fast and it was my second run of the day. My quads still felt a tiny bit sore on the way into Pilates this morning, and when I first squatted down to the mat, but then the class seemed to loosen them up and I feel fine now. I have to tell you though, visiting preschools and lowering myself into minature chairs, down to the floor to play and squatting to talk at eye-level was really tough with sore quads! I had visits Monday through Wednesday with the first two days being the worst days of soreness. Next time I'll schedule visits later in the week.

I've had the great good fortune to be on a Y Board committee that is studying the concept of servant leadership. Our committee chair is currently working on his doctorate on the subject and has been able to provide us with incredible insight, great articles and discussion. Attending a meeting is like going to one of the best classes I have ever been in.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately - rather than the top down management style, servant leadership strives for a collaborative effort. Members or employees of the organization are considered the most important resource of the organization. The piece of the theory that most interests me is stewardship. Stewardship focuses on the next generation - holding the organization in trust for the greater good. I've always known of the concept of stewardship, but in my mind it was something that was linked to the care of the land and I didn't take it any farther. Actually, I did take it farther, but not in a concious way. I've always believed that the job of the current generation is to help our community thrive so it will be ready for the next generation, and that even more, our job is to prepare our children to become the next set of caretakers of the community. That is stewardship - we are the current stewards of the community and we prepare our children to become the next set of stewards. And the most important resource of the community? The people who belong to it - again, stewardship.

Children are the messages that we deliver to a future we will never see.
Neil Postman

Now I'm broadening my view to all things - in my professional life, as I've been working on a few things, I've discovered that the preschool I work at was started in 1963. 1963! And it is still here and still going. I've come to realize that the college's role in the life of the preschool is that of a steward, and that my role as head of the department is the same.

I like the idea that what I do trickles through the generations. Parenting classes help parents focus on their families, become conscious observers of their children and relationships, ask themselves what kind of an adult they are hoping for their child to become, how they want their family to be. They project themselves far into the future and imagine life when the children are the parents and they are the grandparents. We know that the most effective way to teach children is through modeling. What we do, today, with our children, will echo through the generations to come. At the same time, the children are busy working away in the preschool, experiencing, exploring and playing. They are setting the foundation for success, they are learning about social interactions, they are learning that they are capable and worthwhile. This is a great program, and I find myself in the role of steward - a huge responsibility, but one that resonates with me.

And from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein:

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."
Spoken by Gandalf


Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

I think of stewardship also as giving of oneself...ones time, talent, and resources unselfishly. I am always reflecting on my own participation in stewardship in these arenas and how well I feel that I am doing or could be doing. I could probably work on the unselfishly part. :)
Thanks for the food for thought!

runliarun said...

"You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are set forth."

of Children, Kahlil Gibran

Anne said...

I really like that concept for leadership and hope it catches on. Gee, my board meetings usually leave me numb. Sounds like a great group you got there.

Chad said...

I'm a believer that leadership begins with the attitude of a servant. It's a truism that "to lead you must first serve". If you are serving those you would lead, you are in fact becoming a steward of whatever it is you are involved in. The greatest leaders are those who understand it is not about them, but about what they are trying to build. In the end, in a huge irony, history often celebrates them the most.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Joe said...

Great post and you are right on the money with servant leadership. It turns the organizational pyramid upside down and changes the perspective of who serves whom. Cool you are looking at that. We are stewards, not owners.

Tolkein put some powerful words in the voice of Gandalf, didn't he??

Robb said...

I'm sold. Great thoughts as always!

Sarah said...

Nice post. Stewardship makes me think of church. That concept is big in the Presbyterian church in which I was raised. But really, you can apply it to most things in life.

JustRun said...

I love the idea of servant leadership- looking back through all the bosses and supervisors I've had, it's those that were willing to "work" for me whom I worked hardest for. It really does work.
Also, love the Tolkein quote.

susie said...

Wonderful post. As a middle school teacher, I certainly relate. But you've articulated this well, and in a way I hadn't thought of.

Anonymous said...

What a great focus! We all need to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on what our purpose is. It sounds like you're doing great things. Keep it up!

robtherunner said...

I am a firm believer in servant leadership as well. I think you need to lead by example rather than with words only.

Thomas said...

Michelle, you're busted for not paying attention. All the questions you asked in your recent comment are answered in the header of by blog.

Get better soon.

Very nice post. I always hated the top down approach of management, and always rebelled if someone tried that on me (maybe that's why they made me a manager recently).

Darrell said...

Thought provoking. I've heard good things about the book "Good to Great". I'm sure your chair may know of it.

Dori said...

Don't have tine to comment, just wanted to say that I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Nike Women's Marathon!