Skip to content

What is a Steward Leader? By Howard Rich

What defines a steward leader?

I am in a conversation about leadership and begin referring to steward leaders, and the person I am speaking with gets a quizzical look on their face. The scene replays countless times. At a convenient time in the conversation, this person will graciously correct me and point out I am really talking about servant leadership. Sometimes it is done as though I am mispronouncing the word – a bit like renumeration and remuneration. Or, better yet, if I were to refer to the Golden Gate Bridge as being in Los Angeles, it would be normal, and a bit embarrassing, for a person to point out to me that the bridge is actually in San Francisco.

More than a Servant

So, I have started to be a little proactive when I bring up the idea of the steward leader in a conversation for the first time. I usually start by explaining that steward leadership takes the underlying tenets of servant leadership and advances the servant’s role a step further by emphasizing rightful ownership, accountability, and submission of the leader to his superiors. The servant leader finds his core identity as servant, whereas the steward leader realizes he is a manager for the rightful owner.

Eyes on the Owner

I go on to explain that in a vertical leadership hierarchy, servant leaders look downward toward the responsibility the leader has to those under his leadership; steward leaders additionally look up toward the responsibility the leader has to those above his leadership. In a horizontal or flat organizational structure, the servant leader serves everyone around him in the organization, especially those behind him on the horizontal continuum, while the steward leader also looks ahead on the horizontal continuum toward the intent and direction of the rightful owner.

Not My Own

Followers of Christ are defined as: Christlike, believers, faithful, heirs, sanctified, born-again, godly, and blameless. We know our ultimate home is in heaven, but we must live our earthly lives interacting with the world around us. The role of steward allows us to live our lives and engage in leadership, while constantly releasing ownership. A servant can be an owner, but a steward acknowledges he is the caretaker of what does not belong to him.

Jesus’ style of leadership when he walked the earth was unique to who He is; Christians can model after Him, but are to reflect Him, not themselves.  If we use a leadership technique based on the examples set by Jesus, yet place the focus on ourselves, we run the risk of losing our role as slave to Jesus. We lead as a servant of Jesus Christ, endowed with His power for His purpose, which naturally transitions the servant into a steward.

What is your role as a follower of Christ on earth?


Howard Rich is the VP of Operations for the Network of International Christian Schools (NICS).

If you want to learn how to become a faithful steward leader then consider enrolling in an upcoming term of the Outcomes Academy Online. In these 10-week courses you will go deeper into the subjects that are essential for your to steward well what God has put in your care. Follow the links to learn more.

CLA is grateful for the 2018-2019 sponsor of The Outcomes Academy



What is Christian Leadership Alliance?

Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

Upcoming Events

Check back later!