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Work Life Lead: Its A Gift

This post is one of a continuing series on The Stewardship of Gratitude, and marks a shift from an emphasis on stewardship to gratitude.

imageA real problem in many organization is the disconnect of people within the business from the mission as an idea to believe in. Work is simply a place to fill the space of time that provides income for living.

Only in the most forward thinking organizations is this reality appreciably different.

The issue is a simple one. It is a matter of perception by people as to what the organization is. Is it simply a structure for the purpose of attaching processes which produce a specific outcome?  Is it a tool for personal wealth creation? Is it a means of personal expression of the values and purposes of the owner’s life?  Each is valid, and operative in most places. But there is another way to look at an organization that can expand our perception of its value.

We can see it as a Gift.

A gift is something given, received, then cherished with gratitude and care.

For example, almost a decade ago, a mentor of mine died of cancer. A couple months after his death, his wife asked me to come to their house. She took me to his closet. She said, “He wanted you to have his clothes.”  We were the same size, and his clothes fit as if they were originally mine.  In this collection of clothes, was a simple navy blue blazer. Whenever I put it on, as I well in a few minutes to go to a meeting, I put it on in honor of him and his influence upon my life. This gift is not just a jacket; it something more.

The same is true of our organizations. They are not just mechanical process, financial spreadsheets, and human resources. It is a place where people have invested their hopes and dreams, given of their talent and commitment, and spent a large part of their life.

A steward sees the organization as a gift that is passed down to her to care for its mission and protect it from simply becoming a mechanistic tool for the expenditure of time and energy.

The gift that is given is not an object. It is an idea embedded in an object. My friend’s jacket is just like any other common blue blazer. But it isn’t because it was his.

The same with the businesses we lead. It isn’t just a business, or an organizational structure. It is an idea that matters. It must matter because it is the idea, whether you call it mission, purpose, values or vision, that gives the structure its value.

When the steward sees the organization she leads as a gift, then her behavior as its leader changes. The care of the idea and the people who make it possible for it to thrive in an organizational shape grows in importance. She begins to see that the organization is no longer about her, but about something greater than her. It is partly the idea, but more the connection that the idea has to other people.

Some may call this idea its brand, but that is to reduce it to a marketing gimmick. Today there are many successful stewards of the idea that is embedded within an organization.

I think of Steve Jobs whose Apple organization has brilliantly taken an idea and stewarded it to preeminence in the technology field.  I think of Chris Anderson’s TED conferences that has created a community around the idea of sharing ideas that matter. And of his wife, Jacquline Novogratz’s Acumen Fund that is stewarding the idea of new ways to help the social and economic development of the least prosperous parts of our planet.

Each of them is the steward of an idea, and their organization a gift that is shared with the world.

The steward’s mindset is one of openness and caring. It is not closed and selfish. It is embraces and engages people to share in the stewardship of the mission and work of their organization. As a gift, it is one that is worthy of gratitude. It is at this point that I make a shift in our series to begin to explore the idea of gratitude as a function of the stewardship and leadership of organizations.

Photo credit stevendepolo/

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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