Ethical Stewardship, Sports and Entrepreneurship

In many papers I have read the word stewardship and ethical stewardship. The amount of frequency warrants a post. Furthermore I have also been interested in how the concept is applied to management techniques and leadership.

Stanford – Virtue Ethics.


An article by Immanuel Gittamo, asks the question if the concept of Ethical Stewardship is able to revive the sport industry in the 21st century. Hence, the article is of an applied nature focusing on case study and is written to “stimulate a dialogue between True Sport committee members,  management consultants and ethicists on the topic of ethical stewardship. 

The article focuses on the role of the True Sport Secretariat who is responsible for the implementation of the national ethics strategy. 

Further review of the literature is provided by Dina Bell Laroche from the Centre of Sports and Law.

Ethical stewardship is a theory of organizational governance in which leaders seek the best interests of stakeholders by creating high trust cultures that honour a broad range of duties owed by the organization’s followers” (Caldwell, Truong, Linh, & Tuan, 2010, p. 3).
The definition quoted above serves to be an interesting starting point to the concept of Ethical Leadership. Further importance for the concept arises as it has the potential to be leadership concept that when applied could lead to discoveries about what contributes to the  flourishing of an organization.
I consider this to be an important leadership concept for the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship requires significant leadership potential and ethical stewardship provides the foundation for building trust and stakeholder value.
It is important to note that the Ethical Stewardship and the focus on flourishing are Aristotelean concepts. Virtue Ethics is one of the 3 major approaches in normative ethics, and can be contrasted with deontology (rules and duties) and consequentialism.
The Stanford Encyclopedia provides insights into how flourishing can be achieved through the polis according to Aristotle.
The best polis has neither function: its goal is to enhance human flourishing, an end to which liberty is at best instrumental, and not something to be pursued for its own sake.
Aristotle’s model of organizational governance has been refined over the centuries, and the concept of ethical stewardship is one that can be used for organizational governance.
The article by Gittamo also mentions the term positive organizational scholarship (POS). The POS serves the function of  establishing the virtues inherent in an organization and what helps them thrive in the 21st Century.
The article also touches on the rationale of how sport has been recently being viewed as only as a  ‘performance perspective’ and the question that remains is to the quality of the sport experience that the viewers expect ?
According to the article the Stewardship model has been identified as a strength based model that could contribute to the POS movement. The POS serves to strengthen the financial and economic framework and the inherent doubts. Entrepreneurship in itself requires a sound economic and financial framework to operate. Furthermore, young entrepreneurs are consistently in a mode of survival much like the sportsman.
This mode of survival and performance can make working with the requirement of the ethical stewardship model ‘to have the house in order’ sound much like a luxury.
Organizational and effectiveness and a solid foundation:
1. Clear sense of board duties and responsibilities. ( moral and legal).
2. Ensuring that constitutional documents are in place known and understood. (mission, vision, values.)
3. Embracing a holistic approach to risk management at all levels of the organization.
4. Embracing a human centric management structure that meets objectives and considers people.
Social Responsibility:
Social Responsibility is an important term both for the sports industry and entrepreneurs. Social Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility and the Triple Bottom Line Approach are the terms that are used by organizations who’s mission statement includes a ‘socially responsible orientation’.
Ethical Stewardship demands that leaders give ‘others’ importance and hence is a move from the ‘self‘ to ‘others’ and focuses on leaving the organization in a better position for the future generations.
In both entrepreneurship and sports, ‘self-interest’ plays an important part. An entrepreneur focuses on the ‘self’ as they carry the most risk and the sportsman is in a survival and performance environment completely focused on the ‘self’.
When taking a ethical stewardship approach we have to stop thinking about the self and reach for a higher purpose. Hence, trust emerges between people within an organization when everyone looks towards a higher purpose.
Becoming more Intentional:
It is important to think intentionally that leadership is oriented towards a higher purpose. Thinking intentionally that leadership is required to produce a better company or improve a certain sport is of the utmost importance.
Balance between a focus on objectives and fulfilling our social responsibility
Much like sports, entrepreneurship is purpose driven. The purpose of an entrepreneur is to achieve growth and create value for the shareholder and an IPO.
Both for the entrepreneur and the sportsman achieving an objective such as sales, or a certain performance standard can outweigh the long-term benefits that the organization receives from adopting a socially responsible mission. Hence, long-term initiatives should be put into place so that that both entrepreneurs and sportsman can realize the value of a socially responsible firm in the long-run.
Adopting and Early Leadership Approach
Learning from the earlier adopted approaches can help in forming a solid foundation for ethical stewardship.
  1. Searching out exemplars and studying what has worked well and learning how an ethical stewardship philosophy has been instilled into the organization.
  2. Evidence based with a pragmatic orientation. Embracing the knowledge that comes from scholarship areas such as, business ethics, leadership,
  3. Investing in our capacity. Training and education is integral to equipping leaders (stewards) with the knowledge and information required to succeed.
  4. Clarity on where to start. Both Sport and Entrepreneurship have a hierarchy and careful consideration needs to be given as to where the concept of Ethical Stewardship should be applied. So for e.g.: in entrepreneurship the concept of ethical stewardship is mostly talked about for large organizations and the small medium businesses are left out, even though ethical stewardship is equally important to them.
Ethical Stewardship is a model that has to come from the top.
“The board must explicitly take the lead in governance, including ethical leadership and stewardship.”
 There are additional principles that have emerged and these are based on the writings of Brown Governance. Brown Governance
Another principled approach is put forward by the Institute of Governance. Institute of Governance.
Literature Review of Ethical Stewardship. 
Defining Ethical Stewardship 
Ethical Stewardship is the application of ethics theory to the role of the steward. Caldwell, Hayes, Karri, and Bemal (2008) define ethical stewardship as the “honoring of duties owed to employees, stakeholders, and society in pursuit of long-term wealth creation” (p. 153).
Ethical stewardship and its connection to governance:
“ethical stewardship is a theory of organizational governance in which leaders seek the best interests of stakeholders by creating high trust cultures that honour a broad range of duties owed by the organization’s followers” (p. 3).
Equally the literature revealed a theory of stewardship as:
“a relationship in which managers are stewards whose motives are aligned with the objectives of many parties” (Caldwell & Karri, 2005, p. 251).
 Stewardship as a function of good governance.
What is governance about:
The authors explain that governance is about how governments and social organizations interact and the process by which organizations make important decisions and determine who is involved in the decision-making. 
 What comes first Stewardship or Steward ?
A governance strategy.
An organizational ‘steward’, defined by Block (1995) is accountable for the well being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of the members of the organization.
“the attitude and behaviors that place the long-term best interests of a group ahead of [the] personal goals that serve an individual’s self interests” (p. 122).
As we can see that the role of steward is of a selfless nature. In both the context of sports and entrepreneurship, the role of the steward is questioned as there is a profit seeking motive. Hence, the steward is more common in a public organization.
Servant Leadership as a way to achieve organizational leadership. 
Sendjaya and Sarros (2002) apparently closed the link between servant
leadership and stewardship by saying “servant leaders also view themselves as stewards” (p.60).
Moving from ‘self interest’ towards a focus on ‘other’ .
In effect, stewardship “impacts the degree of ownership and responsibility each
[stakeholder] feels for the success of [the] organization” (Block, 1995, p. 19) because there is no traditional leader who can claim control and ultimate responsibility. This is a choice of partnership over patriarchy.
 Trust as the connecting force.
Put simply, the more that the ethical steward is trusted to act for the benefit of the organization instead of the individual, then the more effective the governance of the organization will be.

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