About twenty years ago, I was in a large hotel ballroom listening to Peter Block, a best-selling author and consultant who had just released a book called Stewardship. The most powerful lesson I learned that day didn’t come from Peter’s book. It came directly from him.
After a glowing introduction by the conference host, Peter stepped up to the podium and said something to the effect of, “I know that Power Point slides are all the rage, but I’m going to keep it simple and just use a few transparencies to make my points.”
Frankly, my initial reaction was, “Seriously? This guy is so old-school that he’s still using transparencies?” And they were hand-written transparencies at that. I was not impressed.
And then for the next hour, Peter Block proceeded to captivate the entire audience (and my eye-rolling self) with his wise observations about the way we work together as humans. He shared his vision of stewardship as “an intention to distribute power widely, especially to those at the lowest levels of the organization.” He talked about how increasing control over others is a short-term strategy at best, and the only way to truly lead is to do so with a service-oriented heart.
I don’t recall the specific bullet-points Peter Block wrote on the overhead projector, but twenty years have passed and I still carry with me this important take-away: form is irrelevant when the substance strikes a chord deep within us.
The concepts laid out in Stewardship are things we’re still talking about today. If anything, they are more important than ever because the generation entering the workforce right now has come to expect many elements of Block’s central premise on leadership: community, serving the greater good, distribution of decision-making.
This week, Berrett-Koehler Publishers reissued a Second Edition of Block’s Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest. The revised and expanded edition arrived in my mailbox a few days ago, courtesy of Weaving Influence. I can’t wait to read it and compare it to my original copy that still resides in my professional library.
You may wonder, why read a book that’s twenty years old? Isn’t it outdated? In this case, the truths spoken by Peter Block are still as relevant as they were twenty years ago – that’s how powerful and visionary the thoughts laid out in Stewardship were.
As with all classic literature, revisiting the ideas on the pages is a worthwhile endeavor. I am not the person I was twenty years ago. When I reread Stewardship this time around, I’ll have the benefit of a lot more leadership experience to draw upon.
Where were you twenty years ago? You are a different person today than you were back then. In 1993, whether you were in preschool, high school or starting out as a young professional, no matter what your leadership journey has been – you can benefit from reading (or re-reading) this book. It will definitely change how you view power and leadership.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book. I was not required to write a positive book review. I only write about books that I think you’ll find useful. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you click the link and make a purchase, I may receive compensation.